Nokia's ( NOK) fashion disaster is getting worse by the day. The big Helsinki-based wireless company stumbled for the second time in 10 days Friday, posting weak first-quarter numbers and pointing to a steep second-quarter shortfall as well. And as before, the company pointed to mistakes in its wireless phone lineup for a surprising drop in sales. Nokia's shares continued a sharp selloff that has knocked a third off their value this month. The latest setback comes just over a week after the tech titan first owned up to the fact that a phone-fashion faux pas is sapping sales growth and squeezing its industry-leading market share. Back on April 6, Nokia said its failure to sell midprice color-screen camera phones would result in a weak first quarter. On Friday, confounding its many fans, the company warned that the weakness would continue into the second period. Nokia said the mobile phone industry expanded at a 29% clip during the first quarter, but Nokia's own handset sales rose just 19%. As a result the company's industry-leading market share sagged to 35% from the company's recent readings in the high 30s and its target of 40%. "We are not satisfied with our sales development during the first quarter," CEO Jorma Ollila said Friday. "I realize that improvements require additional effort and a lot of hard work, but I have confidence in the ability of the Nokia team to address and meet customer needs in all segments by further strengthening our product portfolio." Nokia shares slid 8% in premarket trading to $14.70. For its first quarter ended March 31, the company posted earnings of 816 million euros ($979.2 million), or 17 European cents a share, down from 977 million euros, or 20 cents a share, a year earlier. Sales slipped 2% from a year ago.
More troubling was the company's forecast that second-quarter earnings would be just 13 to 15 euro cents a share, which is equivalent to about 16 to 18 cents a share and well short of Wall Street's 23-cent consensus estimate. The company said second-quarter sales would be flat to even with the year-ago 7 billion euros ($8.4 billion). That's short of the Wall Street estimate of $8.52 billion. April's flurry of warnings has stunned investors, because Nokia's glowing remarks earlier this year had helped ignite a wireless sector rally. But Friday's comments make it increasingly clear that the problem lies with the company's phone lineup. Wireless watchers had warned that there was a growing gap between what cell-phone buyers were shopping for and what Nokia was offering. Now it seems criticisms that Nokia was too slow to bend to the taste for clamshell-type folding phones may have been accurate. As it turns out, what cell-phone users were demanding was the folding photo phone being churned out in quantity by outfits like Samsung and Motorola ( MOT). Nokia didn't have any of these so-called midprice color-screen models. On Friday, Samsung posted record results and said it expects to pick up 4 points of worldwide market share, Reuters reported. On a conference call with analysts April 6, Nokia executives conceded a lack of clamshell phones was a contributing factor to the sales weakness. But the execs
promised some sprucing-up was in store. The company expects to introduce 40 new phones this year, matching last year's efforts. Of course, delays in actually rolling out a new cell-phone model can prove costly in the increasingly competitive handset market, as Motorola fans learned all too well last year. The company was late to market with some key camera-phone models and ended up ceding many of those sales to rivals, hampering Motorola's profitability and eventually helping to force the departure of former CEO Chris Galvin. But Nokia's many fans are now looking eagerly to the future. Nokia's success in rolling out a new version of its N-Gage game-console phone suggests to some investors that it's only a matter of time till the company again has its competitors on the run.