(AP) — Nokia's net loss nearly quadrupled in the second quarter on sagging sales of smartphones, a market in which the company is struggling to regain ground lost to rivals including Apple and Samsung. Shares in the company jumped, however, as sales of low-end phones buoyed revenue and shipments of the new Lumia phones, which run on Windows software and will replace the older smartphone models, were not as bad as feared.
Nokia posted Thursday a net loss of $1.72 billion. Overall sales were down 19 percent, but not as low as analysts' forecast, according to financial data provider FactSet. Smartphone sales were the weak point, dropping 34 percent as shipments of the new Lumia devices could not make up for a slump in demand for the older models. Analyst Mikko Ervasti at Evli Bank in Helsinki said Nokia performed better than expected in lower-end devices, boosting the total number of Nokia phones shipped in the quarter to 84 million, compared to market expectations of 80 million.
The Finnish company was the world's leading mobile phone maker for more than a decade but was overtaken by Samsung in the first quarter, according to research firm Gartner. Facing stiff competition from Apple's iPhone and devices running on Google's Android software, Nokia tried to stem the decline in smartphones in part through a partnership with Microsoft announced last year, replacing Nokia's existing Symbian operating platform with Microsoft's Windows Phone software.
A drop in sales was expected during this transition period, and Nokia said that the decline of Symbian phones dragged down sales in all regions except for North America, where the decline was "more than offset" by sales of the Lumia devices. Nokia said it sold 4 million Lumia phones worldwide in the quarter. "That was a relief. It took away some fears that the market had," Ervasti said.
Questions arose about Lumia sales in the U.S. earlier this week when Nokia and AT&T halved the price of the flagship Lumia 900 to $50, just three months after its introduction. Nokia called the cut "a normal strategy that is put in place during the life cycle of most phones." Nokia's global market share has steadily shrunk from the peak of 40 percent in 2008 to 29 percent in 2011 and is expected to dwindle further this year. Meanwhile, Nokia shares have fallen to their lowest level since the 1990's.
Last month, Nokia announced plans to slash 10,000 jobs and close down research and development facilities in Ulm, Germany, and Burnaby, Canada, as well as its main manufacturing plant in Salo, Finland. In the earnings statement, Nokia's CEO Stephen Elop said the third quarter would "remain difficult" as the phase-out of Symbian phones continues. He said the upcoming launch of a new version of the Windows operating system — Windows Phone 8 — would be an "important catalyst for Lumia."
Nokia is expected to be among the first manufacturers to launch Windows Phone 8 devices in the fourth quarter, but Elop gave no details on that. "We're committed to Windows Phone as our primary smartphone strategy," he said in a conference call. "We've learned that it takes a tremendous amount of work to break through ... and we're viewing the launch of Windows Phone 8 as an important moment in this journey."