Wireless communications stocks, already riding high on a surge in the technology sector, got an added boost Friday from
, the market leader in wireless phones.
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Nokia, which was the first to predict that 1 billion people would use mobile phones by the end of 2003, said the number could be reached a year sooner, in 2002.
The company's stock price rose 11 1/4, or 8%, to 155 7/8. (Nokia closed up 11 7/16, or 8%, to 156 1/16.)
, Nokia's top competitors, quickly followed: Ericsson gained 3 7/16, or 7%, to 54 15/16; Motorola rose 6, or 5%, to 124 9/16. (Ericsson closed up 3 1/2, or 7%, to 55, while Motorola settled up 5 3/8, or 5%, to 123 15/16.)
Nokia, the Finnish market leader, also said it could achieve 30% to 40% sales growth in 2000. The company met with Wall Street analysts in Irving, Texas.
Several sell-side analysts, who work for brokerage firms that make commissions selling the stocks they cover, said the wireless market is set for rapid growth as conversion to digital systems and the move to mobile Internet service push demand for the technology.
"Nokia sees itself well positioned to exploit new growth possibilities in the new arena emerging from the convergence of telecom, datacom and IT industries," the company said in a statement.
Mona Eraiba, who covers Motorola for
Gruntal & Co.
, said the growth in mobile phone users will be a boon to all wireless companies. Aggressive pricing policies in the U.S. will push Motorola's earnings, she said.
Eraiba rates Motorola an outperform, which is a recommendation to buy the stock. Her firm hasn't done underwriting for the Schaumburg, Ill.-based company.
Ed Snyder, who follows all three stocks for
Hambrecht & Quist
, said the market's reaction was justified, "if you believe their story."
He was referring to Nokia's prediction and its recent history of aggressive predictions.
The sales and phone user forecasts may well be true, but "that's still three years out and you've got to wonder what's going to happen with earnings until then," he said. "The industry is growing like mad."
Snyder rates Nokia and Motorola buys, but said he rates Ericsson a hold because recent earnings statements were disappointing and the company isn't well organized for growth. Investors overreacted to recent upgrades from other analysts, in Snyder's opinion.
H&Q hasn't done underwriting for any of the phone makers.