Smartphone sales surge

Nokia Lumia

By David Goldman

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Here’s something we haven’t heard in a while: Nokia exceeded expectations last quarter.

The Finnish mobile giant said Thursday that it sold more phones than expected, including 4.4 million from the much-hyped Lumia lineup of MIcrosoft Windows Phones. In all, the company’s phone unit sold nearly 80 million phones, with sales totaling €3.9 billion (roughly $5.2 billion).

That might have been enough to eke out a profit in that division in the fourth quarter, the company said. The company plans to provide full details on its quarterly financials on Jan. 24.

Nokia has posted losses for three straight quarters. The company lost $2.7 billion in the first nine months of 2012, while sales fell 23%.

Shares of Nokia, which got clobbered last year, rose 17% on the news.

Though CEO Stephen Elop said drastic changes were needed at the company when he took over in late 2010, Nokia’s bold decision to partner with Microsoft has been slow to pay off. Despite Nokia’s critically acclaimed hardware, users have been timid about adopting Windows Phone devices.

Related story: Elop is on the hot seat

In the first quarter of this year, Nokia lost the title of “world’s largest cell phone company” to Korean rival Samsung, ending a 14-year reign at top of the industry. Nokia was the worldwide smartphone leader as recently as a year ago, but it has since fallen out of the top five.

Financial hardship followed as sales slumped. In April, Nokia’s debt was downgraded to a “junk” rating by credit rating agencies Standard & Poor’s and Fitch. The company cut 10,000 jobs in June.

Though Thursday’s announcement was good news, it’s too early to say if the company has turned the corner. For the current quarter, Nokia is remaining cautious, saying another loss is likely. Consumer demand was up during the holiday quarter, but sales are expected to be tepid in the first quarter of 2013, it said.


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