Lumia sales lift Nokia results and turnaround hopes

Thu Jan 10, 2013 1:01pm EST
 
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By Ritsuko Ando

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Nokia said strong sales of Lumia smartphones helped its mobile phone business achieve underlying profitability in the fourth quarter, raising hopes the struggling handset maker may be past the worst.

The Finnish company, which has been losing market share to Samsung and Apple, said the better-than-expected result was also helped by cost cuts, a stronger-than-expected performance from its Nokia Siemens Networks unit and 50 million euros ($65.2 million) in patent royalties.

The surprise announcement lifted the shares to nine-month highs and eased pressure on Chief Executive Stephen Elop, who has been trying to prove his February 2011 decision to switch to Microsoft Windows software was the right one.

Elop was seen to be running out of time after saying that the transition would take two years. Success of the high-end Lumia smartphones has been considered crucial for the company's survival, and investors had said Elop would need to quit or change strategy if sales did not pick up by early 2013.

"We're very pleased with the Lumia response," Elop told analysts, although he added that sales of the latest 920 models, which use the new Windows Phone 8 software, had been constrained by a shortage of supplies.

Nokia estimated fourth-quarter operating margin in its mobile phone business was between break-even to 2 percent. It previously forecast the margin to be around minus 6 percent.

Official results, including more details on its profit and cash position, are due on January 24.

Fourth-quarter net sales in devices and services were about 3.9 billion euros ($5.09 billion), Nokia said. It sold a total of 86.3 million devices. Smartphones accounted for 6.6 million units, of which 4.4 million were the Windows-based Lumia handsets.   Continued...

 
Microsoft Corp CEO Steve Ballmer displays a Nokia Lumia 920 featuring Windows Phone 8 during an event in San Francisco, California October 29, 2012. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith