Nokia’s North American sales soar by 444%, but emerging markets take a big hit

Nokia Earnings Analysis Q4 2012

Apple (AAPL) wasn’t the only handset vendor to disappoint this week; Nokia’s (NOK) share price dipped by -5% in Helsinki after the company released its fourth-quarter results. Nokia had already told investors about key metrics, but there were still some surprises in store. One of the biggest was the scale of the Chinese sales erosion. Chinese revenues were down a whopping -79% year-on-year and a steep -23% sequentially. Nokia’s simultaneous +444% U.S. revenue rebound means that the Finnish giant is now making nearly the same amount of revenue in China as in North America: 213 million euros vs. 196 million euros. The Chinese Lumia debuts in the first quarter this year should change this situation soon.

Apparently the Asha feature phone sales that are buoying Middle East and Africa aren’t much help in China, where cheap Android devices are making massive gains. Surprisingly, Asia-Pacific sales were also down -4% sequentially and Latin America dropped by -9%. Nokia’s Christmas quarter was basically made by Europe, which delivered +23% sequential revenue growth on the back of Lumia sales.

This is not what investors wanted to hear. Markets have been concerned about how long the Asha models will be able to fend off attacks from cheap Android models in emerging markets. Latin America and Asia-Pacific sales declines from the third quarter into the fourth quarter were surprising considering the relatively fresh Asha 300-range model launches in these regions. These Asha phones sport relatively high ASP levels compared to Asha 200 models and should have helped Nokia to eke out some sales growth in the Christmas quarter.

It’s a little alarming that Nokia’s device volume in Latin America grew by +3% sequentially, while sales slid by -9%. This seems to reflect pricing erosion even with a relatively strong 60-90 euro feature phone slate. On the other hand, handset sales volume in Europe grew by 15%, while revenue shot up by 23%. Investors would rather see pricing power returning in the growth markets like Asia and Latin America, but at least Nokia is getting back some ASP bounce somewhere on this planet.

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