Nokia looks to future, 2002 too glum

  • 2002-06-27
  • Paal Aarsaether, AFP HELSINKI
Finland's Nokia, the world's largest mobile phone maker, on June 20 again cut its overall sales growth forecast for the second half of the year, from 15 percent to 10 percent, citing the continued slump in the global telecommunications industry.

At the beginning of the year, Nokia, which is watched as a barometer of the state of the telecom sector, estimated its sales growth would be in the range of 20 percent to 25 percent for the latter half of 2002. It later revised the figure to 15 percent.

However, Nokia now says that despite the downward revision of its sales forecast it was maintaining its earnings-per-share target of 0.83 euros ($0.80) for 2002, at a time when many competitors are racking up billions in losses.

Nokia's share price fell by 4.2 percent here to 12.78 euros.

"During the last 18 months, the world economy and telecom industry have been in quite a state of transition and flux," Nokia's president and chief executive officer, Jorma Ollila, conceded at a press conference.

"If you look at this year, obviously there has been some different characteristics, the growth has slowed down with the global economy, and the operator industry has had a kind of in-between year," he continued.

"What we have done this year is to trim our organization and increase our research and development spending, making sure that in the next stage, the move towards mobile multimedia, we will be the winner," Ollila said.

"This is very much preparing for the future to come, which we are facing with confidence," he added.

Helsinki-based analysts agreed with the sentiment, with one saying that Nokia's recent focus on increased production efficiency has put the company in a good position for the future, even if the competition was expected to get tougher.

Earlier, at a mid-year analyst meeting, Ollila said that in the long term, from 2003 onwards, he was aiming for a profit and sales growth of more than 10 percent.

He also reiterated his long-term ambition for Nokia of reaching a market share of 40 percent in handsets.

Of the 93 million handsets Ollila expected to be sold globally in the second quarter this year, he estimated Nokia's market share to be 38 percent.

To achieve its 10 percent sales growth target for the second-half of 2002, Nokia will introduce 10 new mobile phone models in the coming months, many featuring color screens and multimedia messaging services, incorporating sound and images, Ollila said.

However, one Merrill Lynch broker cast doubt over this growth target, saying that given the continuous downbeat situation in the sector, the brokerage expected overall growth for the company of only 4 percent in 2002.

Nokia also estimated that at the end of this year, about 10 European operators would provide multimedia messaging services.

For the full year, Ollila kept his previous forecast for global handsets sales of 400 million to 420 million, compared with 380 million last year.

Nokia also expects a total of 500 million new mobile phone users to enter the global market in the next three years, adding to the current 1 billion handset owners.