December 11, 2019

Nokia Sees Results From New Smartphone Line

BERLIN — Nokia said Thursday that its struggling mobile phone business was showing signs of a rebound, turning a profit in the fourth quarter fueled by sales of its Lumia smartphones that use Microsoft software.

Stephen Elop, the Nokia chief executive, said sales of smartphones and more basic cellphones, as well as profitability at the Nokia Siemens network-equipment venture, all came in better than expected during the three months through December.

“While we definitely experienced some tough challenges in the first half of 2012, we are managing through these issues,” Mr. Elop said in a conference call with journalists.

Nokia has amassed nearly €5 billion, or $6.5 billion, in losses since Mr. Elop, a former Microsoft executive, announced plans to phase out Nokia phones that used its own Symbian operating system for the Lumia line, which uses the Windows Phone 8 software, in February 2011.

Sales of Lumia phones increased only modestly during the early part of 2012, raising concern that the company’s turnaround strategy, marked by cost cutting and the sale of subsidiary businesses, would not be enough to save the former market leader.

But in the fourth quarter, amid heavy television and print ad spending in Europe and North America, Nokia said it sold 4.4 million Lumia phones, up from 2.9 million in the third quarter.

The company said revenue from the sale of 86.3 million mobile phones of all kinds amounted to €3.9 billion in the quarter, without providing comparative figures.

The company’s shares surged as much as 16 percent in Helsinki on the news.

In a statement, Nokia said that it expected operating profit at its devices and services business, which makes up about half of its total sales, to break even or generate a profit of as much as 2 percent of sales in the fourth quarter. In October, Nokia had told investors that it expected the business to make an operating loss of as much as 10 percent of sales.

But sales of its Lumia smartphone and Asha feature phones rose more than expected. Also, Nokia Siemens, its network gear venture, will report an operating profit of 13 percent to 15 percent of sales in the fourth quarter, compared with an expected range of 4 percent to 12 percent.

Looking ahead, Nokia said it expected to return to an operating loss of 2 percent of sales in the first quarter amid the post-holiday buying lull and harsh competition. But the results for the coming three months could vary widely, Nokia warned, from an even bigger 6 percent operating loss to a 2 percent operating profit.

Pete Cunningham, an analyst at Canalys, a research firm in Reading, England, said Nokia’s improving financial position was a positive step. But the company, which ceded its market leadership to Samsung and Apple, is not out of the woods yet.

“On face value, this is a positive for Nokia,” Mr. Cunningham said. “But 2013 could still turn out to be another very difficult year for Nokia. It is way too premature to say that the company has made a turnaround.”

Mr. Cunningham said he used the Lumia 920, Nokia’s newest smartphone, during the Christmas holidays and liked the experience.

“But the more I used the phone, the more apparent it became to me that there are big gaps between Lumia and its competitors in terms of the functionality and usability of its apps,” Mr. Cunningham said. “I still think there is a lot of work to be done on Lumia.”

Mr. Elop said Nokia would continue to innovate to close the gap with competitors. The big issues that Nokia faces, he said, are “managing efficiently, building great products and changing the way we operate. We’re beginning to see that happen.”

Nokia’s shares closed up nearly 13 percent at €3.39 in Helsinki trading.

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