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Nokia Fans Expect Big Finish

The handset king has been on a tear heading into third-quarter earnings.

Nokia (NOK) - Get Report fans yearn for signs that the mobile phone giant is still on a winning streak.

The Finnish cell phone maker will release third-quarter earnings before the market opens Thursday, and analysts anticipate a strong performance with a good chance of upward guidance for the remainder of the year.

Nokia is expected to earn 35 euro cents a share for the quarter ended last month on sales of 13.2 billion euros, according to a tally of analysts surveyed by Reuters Research. That translates to 45 cents (U.S.) a share on $18.1 billion in revenue.

There are two areas of concern for investors in an otherwise predictably solid quarter. One possible blemish will be the decline in average sales prices, or ASPs, for phones. The other worry is over the troubled networking business that is part of the Nokia-Siemens venture.

ASPs are expected to drop to about 89 euros in the third quarter and down to about 87 euros in the fourth quarter as sales of cheaper phones surge in China and India.

But Nokia bulls point out that lower priced phones don't necessarily mean narrower profit margins. And with No. 2 rival



attempting to regroup after a couple of years of defeats, handset price wars have cooled off considerably, say analysts.

And the U.S. telco spending slowdown bug that has bitten networking rivals like


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seems to be less of a threat since Nokia Siemens does only a small business in North America, analysts say.

During the third quarter, Nokia should report that it sold about 108 million phones, though optimists think that number is closer to 110 million. With most of the year already in the books, some analysts say it is likely that Nokia will raise its industry growth forecast above the 10% rate it had predicted for the year.

After missing a crucial ultrathin design trend a few years ago, Nokia has revamped its vast product lineup. The tech titan now has numerous popular phones in nearly every price range, which has helped win business away from competitors. Nokia's market share was about 37% in the second quarter and is expected to hit 39% by year's end.

Nokia shares were up 86 cents to $36.17 in midday trading Wednesday.