Investors dialed down on
as the cell-phone maker dropped its targets again.
Nokia's push for a greater portion of the world's wireless-handset market has Wall Street watching for a drag on the tech giant's top-line performance. And though the company claimed success in the third quarter with 39% cellphone market share and stable 22% operating margins, the results were sullied by rising volumes of low-priced phones and the effects of a weak dollar on exchange rates.
And despite the
solid third-quarter results, Nokia said its fourth quarter wasn't running as strongly as expected. Bulls weren't encouraged: Shares of the Finnish handset giant fell 76 cents, or 4%, to $16.47 in early trading Thursday.
Perhaps most disappointing for investors is the company's continually deteriorating outlook.
Nokia executives said they expect fourth-quarter cell-phone sales to be flat to slightly up from a year ago. Meanwhile, companywide earnings should be around 21 euro cents per share, or around a quarter on the U.S. dollar. That is at the low end of the Wall Street consensus expectation for a profit of 26 cents per share.
The company also said it expects total handset volume for the year to be 460 million units. That's in line with the low range of expectations, but shy of the 470 million-plus that some analysts had been expecting.
Just last month, during a midquarter update, Nokia lowered its guidance based on currency exchange rates and what many on Wall Street saw as
competitive price pressure.
On a conference call with analysts, Nokia CEO Jorma Ollila answered questions on handset prices by saying: "We've seen no undue price pressure."
But analysts and investors were concerned that the average selling price per phone fell 9% from a year ago last quarter, a sign either that Nokia is either cutting prices to compete or that the shift to cheaper phones is dragging down average prices faster than expected.
As to higher priced phones, the industry is awaiting Nokia's introduction of new camera models due out in the next few months. Executives said the delivery is on schedule for the preholiday buying season and expect 20% of its product portfolio will be camera phones.
took a hit on Wall Street as investors worried that the company will be slow to roll out camera-enabled phones for the key holiday selling season.
Nokia also delivered on its promise to win acceptance of its phone from Verizon Wireless, the nation's largest cell-phone service. Verizon announced Thursday that it is now selling a lower-priced color screen phone from Nokia. Analysts expect Nokia to have a camera phone available through Verizon by year-end.
CEO Ollila said the crop of new higher-priced phones due out this quarter will help shift the overall mix toward a higher average price, but declined to offer any projections.
Investors likely would find that more encouraging if Nokia didn't keep lowering the bar.