(Bloomberg) – Nokia Oyj forecasted a stagnant telephone equipment market in 2019, and sent stocks down most within six months, as investors looking for signs could benefit from a breakdown at Huawei Technologies Co. was disappointed.
Nokia said it looks weaker than expected 2019 revenue, as carriers delay buying the 5G systems that are the key to growth, including in the United States. The share fell as much as 7.3 per cent when investors saw earnings over the fourth quarter. It traded 5.2 per cent lower to 5.39 euros at. 11:50 in Helsinki.
Nokia and the Swedish rival Ericsson AB are ready to take advantage of the ban on Huawei equipment in the US and Australia and possible restrictions across Europe. Although Nokia says it is set to win market share, it seems to fall behind its Swedish competitor about the flexibility of radio technology, according to liberal analyst Janardan Menon.
The Finnish company will soon be able to get started with its rivals, if it has not already said, Menon said in a note to clients. "But with 5G contracts and decisions that have been implemented in 2018 and into 2019, the consequences of this delay may affect Nokia's performance for more time to come."
Nokia now expects the market for telecommunications equipment to remain stagnant this year before growing by 2020, as opposed to Ericsson's 2 percent growth forecast for radio access network equipment. The Finnish company foresees a "shift" in key places such as the United States, Japan, Korea and China, said CEO Rajeev Suri on a conversation with journalists.
Ericsson shares were little changed in Stockholm. The Swedish company has invested in research and development to get out of a route that had seen almost half its value deleted in the year before Borje Ekholm's appointment as CEO in October 2016.
Nokia and Ericsson, who said in the previous Week, reaching the 2020 target of profitability two years early, both stand to gain market share at a critical time for 5G system spending from global operators as security issues for Chinese competitor Huawei mount.
Governments across Europe weigh potential constraints that can cut the Chinese company out of offering to build new network infrastructure that promises to facilitate a range of services from ultra-fast downloading of movies on mobile devices to self-propelled cars. The United States, which has long limited the use of Huawei's equipment, is concerned that the Chinese government could use the equipment to spy on it and its allies. Huawei disputes these claims.
Suri spent a lot of 2018 promisingly that the last few months of the year would show a sharp increase in US operator spending, starting 5G services. Although the end of 2018 delivered, the full-year margin of the company's core network business increased to 6 percent, Nokia expects the first six months of 2019 to be "soft" followed by a much more robust second half.
Managers from Nokia and Ericsson have been careful not to be seen to take advantage of Huawei's pain. Both companies produce in China and do business with carriers in the country. Suri on Thursday said Nokia is closely following developments around Huawei.
"The situation is still very flux, and the result is that the authorities should decide, not Nokia," said Suri on the conversation with journalists.
Nokia's full-year earnings per share forecast of EUR 0.25 to EUR 0.29 closed the average estimate of EUR 0.32, according to data prepared by Bloomberg.
"The market expects better guidance this year," said Inderes analyst Mikael Rautanen in comments being posted online. "The price remains there, and Nokia is moving towards it, but the journey is tougher and dustier than expected."
(Updates with analyst comment in fourth paragraph.)
– With help from Kati Pohjanpalo.
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