Amid reports that investors are increasingly dissatisfied with Nokia’s performance, CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo told shareholders at an annual meeting Thursday that Nokia has built a solid foundation and is in a stronger position to grow by combining services with devices.
“We still have plenty of work to do, but we have built a solid foundation,” Kallasvuo said in a statement. “We believe in our strategy.”
Nokia has struggled to come out with a viable competitor to the iPhone in the smartphone category but it plans to introduce a new generation of devices to help close the gap with the competition. “Our approach has been to concentrate on fewer, competitive products that bring the features of Symbian-based smartphones to more and more people around the world,” Kallasvuo said. “And we are well on our way to doing that.”
In reviewing Nokia’s performance in 2009, Kallasvuo noted that the company sold 432 million devices worldwide – more than its top three competitors combined. Last year marked Nokia’s 12th consecutive year as the world’s largest manufacturer of mobile devices.
But the economy took its toll. “The recession coincided with our transformation, as well as changes in our device portfolio,” he stated. “With all these factors together, it resulted in a decrease in operating profit and earnings per share compared with 2008. Despite the challenging conditions, Nokia continued to maintain strict controls on costs and has maintained a solid financial position.”
Last week, Reuters reported that investors were frustrated with the company, including its failure to gain a significant foothold in the North American market, and suggested Kallasvuo may be on his way out. At its annual general meeting yesterday, Kallasvuo was re-elected to the board for another year.
As evidence of Nokia’s achievements thus far, Kallasvuo cited some statistics:
• The Ovi Store, which opened a year ago this month, is now averaging about 1.7 million downloads a day. Localized versions of the store are in 18 countries, supporting 30 different languages.
• Nokia’s free pedestrian and car navigation software has been downloaded more than 10 million times since it was launched in January. The service is now available for more than 70 countries and in more than 45 languages.
• Comes With Music, which makes millions of songs available for download at no extra cost for up to a year with the purchase of certain Nokia devices, was recently launched in China and India – two of the world’s largest and fastest-growing markets.
• Ovi Mail, which is targeting the billions of potential first-time e-mail users around the world, has registered 8 million subscriptions. That’s a rate of about 1 million subscribers a month.
Kallasvuo said the rapidly growing demand for applications, games and other mobile content is no longer just a Western phenomenon. “It’s a global trend that plays to one of Nokia’s strengths, our global presence,” he said.