The world’s largest cellphone maker Nokia reported a smaller than expected fall in third-quarter profits as price cuts and new models lifted sales of its basic cellphones in key markets like India.
The numbers sparked hopes that the struggling Finnish company can survive what has so far been a painful revamp of its smartphone business and Nokia shares jumped more than 10 per cent to their highest level since May.
Nokia added that its first Windows phone would reach selected markets this year, the first step in its fight for a slice of the high end of the smartphone market. The new phone will be launched next week.
“If things go even close to the company’s plans, I do believe we have seen the bottom for Nokia,” said Nordea analyst Sami Sarkamies.
Nokia sold 89.8 million basic mobile phones in the quarter, beating all analysts expectations, as sales soared in Asia, Middle-East and Africa.
The company will have to work hard to protect its position in emerging markets like India as rivals like Apple push in with cheaper smartphones.
The struggling Finnish handset maker reported third quarter underlying earnings per share of 0.03 euros, compared with a forecast loss of 0.01 euros in a Reuters poll of analysts and a profit of 0.14 euros a year ago.
“The results were clearly better than expected. The mobile phones volumes shipped had the biggest role, also the smartphone volumes were on a higher level than expected,” said Swedbank analyst Jari Honko.
“It seems that Nokia is further into a recovery, or rebound, than had been expected. Fourth quarter guidance signals that this trend will continue,” Honko said.
Nokia forecast fourth quarter underlying operating profit margin of 1-5 per cent in its key phone business.
“I think that it’s maybe a stronger finish to the year than some expected, but the real test will happen during 2012,” said WestLB analyst Thomas Langer. “And this is the reason why we remain skeptics of the stock. I think investors are falling into a valuation trap.”
Nokia, left in the dust by Apple and Google in the booming smartphone market, will introduce its first new model using Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform next week in London.
It unveiled the Microsoft deal in February and has since struggled with a fast decline in smartphone sales as it has tried to sell models using its old Symbian platform.
Its smartphone sales dropped 38 per cent from a year ago to 16.8 million phones, slightly ahead of analysts average forecast of 15.9 million, but within a wide range of estimates.
Apple’s iPhone sales dropped to 17.1 million in the September quarter, disappointing investors, but were still ahead of Nokia and the new iPhone 4S is breaking Apple’s previous sales records.
With Microsoft software, Nokia hopes to gain the kind of attention Apple and Google have attracted from software developers that enrich their devices.
So far Windows Phone’s success has been limited – its market share is just 2-3 per cent, compared with around 50 per cent for Google’s Android and around 15 per cent share for Apple.
Nokia has not rushed with new models – despite the close partnership with Microsoft, nimbler rivals HTC, Fujitsu and Samsung Electronics have beat it with models using latest Windows software, Mango.