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Mixed Bag at Sony Ericsson

Sales rise but fall short of estimates.

A surge in cheap phone sales made for a mixed first-quarter performance at Sony Ericsson.

The mobile-phone joint venture between


(SNE) - Get Sony Corp. Report



(ERIC) - Get Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson Report

posted $492 million in income before taxes for the quarter ended last month. That more than doubles the $205.1 million level in the year-ago quarter, but it was below analysts' consensus estimates calling for pretax profit of $500 million.

Sales for the quarter were $3.97 billion compared with $2.71 billion a year ago. Analysts had been looking for revenue of $4.19 billion.

The company shipped 21.8 million phones in the quarter, just slightly ahead of the 21.7 million Wall Street expected. But the growth in phone shipments came largely from lower-priced models. The average selling price per phone, known as ASP, fell to $182 in the first quarter, down from $197 in the prior quarter and below the $204 in the same quarter a year ago.

Fans were encouraged that the No. 4 phonemaker added 2 percentage points to its market share in the quarter, which now stands at an estimated 8% of the market.

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A lot of the gains likely came at rival Motorola's expense. The No. 2 player said earlier this week that its ongoing sales slump has caused its slice of the industry to sink to around 17% from 22% last year.

And unlike



, Sony Ericsson has a strong line up of 3G phones, with roughly 17.5% of that market.

"Given the continuing and possibly accelerating shift toward 3G handsets in developed markets this strong share position should be increasingly positive," JPMorgan analyst Ehud Gelblum wrote in a note Friday.

Finnish phone giant


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had similar first-quarter results, saying Thursday that it saw phone prices falling as lower-priced phones make up more of the overall sales picture.

Ericsson shares fell $1.08 to $38.60 in midday trading Friday.