posted a strong quarter and offered a bullish outlook Thursday, though some investors will continue to fret over the company's North American handset worries.
The Helsinki-based tech giant reported strong fourth-quarter earnings Thursday and offered solid first-quarter guidance, pushing its shares up 10% in early trading. The impressive performance out of Nokia comes after a year of stumbles at the company and in the wake of mixed messages earlier this month out of rivals
For the quarter ended last month, Nokia earned 1.02 billion euros ($1.31 billion), or 23 euro cents a share, on sales of 9.06 billion euros ($11.7 billion). That's down from the year-ago profit of 1.17 billion euros, or 25 euro cents a share, but sales rose 3% from a year ago and all figures beat the Wall Street analyst estimates.
The company said it sold 66 million cell phones in the latest quarter, which handily exceeds the 60 million or so units that analysts were expecting it to have moved. Nokia said its market share held steady at 34%, going by its own estimates, a key figure investors have been eyeing ever since Nokia's fashion pratfalls last holiday season.
Still, the picture wasn't completely flawless, as mobile phone sales slipped 6% from a year ago and the company complained of weak volume in the key North American market. Meanwhile, margins in the mobile phone unit dropped 38% from a year ago into the high teens as Nokia evidently pushed market share gains through a bruising price war.
"Device volumes also reached new highs for the fourth quarter and full year largely backed by the ongoing boom in growth markets such as Latin America, Russia, India and China, and brisk sales of color screen and camera phones," CEO Jorma Ollila said. "Our North American phone volumes were, however, disappointing.
"In the fourth quarter, Nokia's record mobile device volumes, together with sequentially stable average selling prices and better-than-expected infrastructure sales and profitability, pushed our net sales and EPS ahead of guidance," Ollila added.
For 2005, Nokia expects the cell phone market to grow 10% to around 700 million units, off 2004's record gains. The company said it expects to earn 12 to 15 euro cents a share in the first quarter on sales of 7 billion to 7.3 billion euros. Those figures translate to earnings of 16-19 cents (U.S.) on sales of $9.1-$9.5 billion, which are ahead of the Thomson First Call analyst estimate.
Early Thursday, Nokia surged $1.41 to $15.43.