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Wed 10 Jan 2001 04:00 AM

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Nokia sales fail to impress investors

Almost two-thirds of visitors to ITP.net own Nokia mobile phones, but despite Nokia's leadership here and in the rest of the world, investors hammered its stock yesterday.

European telecoms stocks slumped yesterday after Nokia, the world's biggest mobile phone maker, reported weaker than expected sales for 2000. Shares in the Finnish firm were the heaviest hit, dropping more than 19% at one point, but the falls were across the board, affecting handset makers, equipment suppliers and network operators. Swedish rival Ericsson lost more than 4%, Motorola dipped 2% and France's Alcatel 1%. Nokia said it sold more than 128 million phones in 2000, nearly two thirds higher than the year before.The company’s global leadership is even more dramatic in the Middle East where it holds a dominant market share position. Handset manufacturers in the region to not provide unit shipment figures, but a spot poll held on ITP.net last month showed that 63% of handsets in the Middle East are Nokia. The company’s closest rivals in the region, Siemens and Alcatel, polled only 8% each.In Europe, analysts were disappointed, having forecast sales of 135 million to 140 million units. They said they suspected that Nokia, by pre-announcing the figures, was attempting to deflate expectations for its full-year financial results - due to be published on 30 January - and limit any share price drop. Even so, some analysts said Tuesday's steep fall in the share price was an over-reaction, reflecting how nervous investors are. "It is tough to tell what the situation is given we only have one figure, but where the share is now, the reaction looks to be a little overdone," said Ed Protheroe, European technology portfolio manager at Aberdeen Asset Management in an interview with BBC Online. "But given the reputation of the company and its premium valuation, it cannot afford to disappoint. Given the current (volatile) market conditions, the reaction is not surprising," he added.

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