Expect the big wireless companies reporting earnings this week to get a boost from a most unlikely source: teetering titan Nokia ( NOK). The Helsinki-based cell-phone giant has spent April recounting its product-line miscalculations. A pair of flip-phone
stumbles has cost the company 2 points of worldwide market share and a third of its stock price. Now, also-ran handset maker Motorola ( MOT) and technology giant Qualcomm ( QCOM) are poised to cash in on Nokia's nagging problems. It seems that everyone else in wireless has something to gain from Nokia's fashion lapse. As Samsung showed last week and SonyEricsson revealed Monday, customers have been snapping up fresh new color-screen camera phones this year with abandon. But Nokia hasn't had a phone that fits the bill, and that leaves it sitting on a stale batch of last year's models. Some analysts suspect that Motorola, despite detours of its own, may have found the path to handset success in the latest quarter. And while Nokia was busy addressing a sales shortfall and lowering its top line forecast, Qualcomm has twice raised its guidance this year as business hums along at top form. Citing Motorola's popular "V" series of folding color phones, J.P. Morgan analyst Ehud Gelblum predicts that the company may have had a particularly "strong product lineup" at a time when consumers were looking for fancier phones. "At the mid- to high end of the market, where Nokia lost share, consumers are less sensitive to prices and more sensitive to fashion, features and design," Gelblum wrote in research report Monday. Gelblum has a buy rating on Motorola. His firm has been an underwriter for the company. Analysts expect Motorola to report a net profit of 7 cents per share on sales of $6.7 billion when the company presents first-quarter earnings after the close Tuesday. That compares with a per-share profit of 17 cents on $8 billion in sales in the prior period, and a penny-a-share profit on $6 billion in sales a year ago.
The wireless business has been on a tear lately, as users sign on for service in record numbers worldwide. Nokia
vowed last week that it would be have 40 new phones this year. The company said it would ruthlessly cut prices in order to reclaim lost ground and resume marching toward its goal of controlling 40% of the handset market. Until then, the rest of the cell-phone confederacy gains strength. SonyEricsson, a joint venture of Sony ( SNE) and Ericsson ( ERICY ADR), said Monday that it swung to a profit in the first quarter. The company also raised its sales estimates for the year. Nokia's slip proved pivotal for its peers, says a New York hedge fund manager who was previously short Nokia. "As we saw with Samsung, companies that had the right phones got higher prices, while Nokia had the wrong phones and has to lower prices," says the money manager. Phone-chip supplier and technology licensing giant Qualcomm is expected to show that it's another player on the winning side of this game. Qualcomm said in February that, excluding its investment arm's results, the company should post a 20% year-over-year jump in profits on 17% sales growth in the latest quarter, which ended in March. The San Diego tech shop recently reported that demand for its code division multiple access chips was exceeding supply. Analysts such as Lehman Brothers' Tim Luke expect Qualcomm will post solid results for the second quarter ended in March. Luke forecasts improved performance this fall as well, as the company expands chip production capacity. Wall Street is expecting Qualcomm to report net income of 48 cents a share on sales of $1.2 billion Wednesday. That compares to profit of 51 cents on $1.2 billion in revenue during the previous quarter and 38 cents on $1 billion a year ago.