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Nokia shares fall as it drops first quarter forecast

Finnish phone firm didn't get off to a good start this year...

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Nokia shares dropped over 16 per cent on the Helsinki Stock exchange today after it cut its profit forecast for the first quarter.

The Finnish phone firm said that it now thought its operating margin for the first three months of this year was around -3 per cent, instead of a previously expected break-even range of plus or minus two percentage points.

The announcement sent the firm's stocks down around 16 per cent on the Helsinki exchange to €3.20 (£2.64, $4.20), while the shares fell by over 14 per cent in pre-market trading on the NASDAQ.

Nokia blamed its changed forecast on "competitive industry dynamics" and "gross margin declines, particularly in the smart devices business unit".

Stephen Elop, the mobile-maker's CEO and president, described the results as "disappointing".

"Our devices & services business continues to be in the midst of transition," he said in a canned statement. "Within our Smart Devices business unit, we have established early momentum with Lumia, and we are increasing our investments in Lumia to achieve market success.

"Our operator and distributor partners are providing solid support for Windows Phone as a third ecosystem, as evidenced most recently by the launch of the Lumia 900 by AT&T in the United States."

The launch of the Lumia in the US was perhaps not the best example of hope for Nokia, since the firm is in the middle of refunding American customers who bought the phone at the weekend, only to find their handsets had a wireless data bug.

Nokia will patch up Lumia 900s by Monday next week and exchange any that are currently posing problems. As well as that, anyone buying one at the AT&T price of $99.99 for a two-year contract will get a $100 rebate on their bill.

The one-time darling of the mobile sector is pinning much of its hopes for a revival on its tie-up with Microsoft to produce Windows phones – and the Lumia 900 is the current flagship of this line.

Nokia said today that it had sold two million Lumia 710s, 800s or 900s in the first quarter of this year and it would be beating off the competition by continuing to focus on Lumia sales, as well as "lowering the company's cost structure, improving cash flow and maintaining a strong financial position".

The firm will announce its full first quarter results on 19 April. ®

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