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Symbian angst downgrades Nokia

Ratings agency gives Finnish mobile maker thumbs down on 'outlook'

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The new management of Nokia is already ringing the changes - identifying several areas widely criticised by outsiders. But the short-term outlook continues to look uncertain. This week rating agency Moody changed its outlook from "stable" to "negative", citing concern about Symbian^3 devices.

Nokia's smartphones may "turn out to be insufficient to reverse Nokia's loss of market share in mobile phones and converged devices and thus to return group operating margins to above 10 percent, one of Moody's rating criteria," the company said.

Last week Nokia tore up its Symbian roadmap, announced a shift from milestone-based Symbian releases, and said it would issue continuous incremental improvements. The move was broadly welcomed by analysts and developers. Nokia also said it will shakeup its lacklustre Ovi services strategy, bringing work back in-house.

The competitiveness problem highlighted by Moody isn't helped by continuing delays to its Linux platform, Nokia's long-term successor to Symbian at the high-margin high-end. Last year, NokiaWorld attendees believed that consumer devices would now be reaching the market. But this has been held-up by a decision to merge with Intel's Linux OS. For Intel, putting Linux into cars and set-top boxes is a side project - for Nokia, it's now life or death.

Moody's debt rating hasn't changed; unlike Apple or IBM during their dark days, Nokia still makes a tidy profit, and has enough cash reserves for one more Navteq-sized acquisition gamble. But it is up against what is now the world's second-largest company, Apple, which has $50bn of cash in the bank - enough to buy Sony... or Nokia. ®

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