Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/05/08/nokia_shareholders_revolt_over_elop/

Nokia shareholder tells CEO Elop he's going to hell

If you're in a hole, stop digging

By Iain Thomson

Posted in Business, 8th May 2013 00:09 GMT

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop has been taking flak from angry shareholders at the company's annual investor's conference, with accusations flying that he's running the company into the ground by keeping Nokia as a Windows-only operation.

"You're a nice guy ... and the leadership team is doing its best, but clearly, it's not enough," shareholder Hannu Virtanen told Elop, Reuters reports. "Are you aware that results are what matter? The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Please switch to another road."

It has been over two years since Elop made public the "Burning Platform" memo to Nokia staff that warned of the vendor's fundamental problems as he saw them. Two days later, Elop signed up his former employers at Microsoft to provide an operating system for the Finnish vendor which has seen little sign of setting the world on fire.

Two years down the line and the investors are getting fractious. Shares are hovering around the $3 mark, down from almost $60 in Nokia's glory years around the turn of the century. Shareholders large and small lambasted Elop for his strategy, but the American boss insisted there was no Plan B.

"We make adjustments as we go. But it's very clear to us that in today's war of ecosystems, we've made a very clear decision to focus on Windows Phone with our Lumia product line," he said. "And it is with that that we will compete with competitors like Samsung and Android."

Given the state of the company's last financial results, that kind of attitude is not going to placate the owners of Nokia, nor solve the Finish company's long-term problems. Handset sales were down nearly a third on the year, and while some Lumia models are selling reasonably well, Nokia is being squeezed at both the high and low ends of the market.

"He's managed to decrease costs but not to increase market share," said Magnus Rehle, senior partner in Greenwich Consulting, which advises telecom companies. "Maybe they could go back to Google and say we also want to go with Android. Even if it hurts. Microsoft, they've had their chances, and are not managing to take off."

Finnish pension fund Ilmarinen wasn't impressed, telling Reuters that it had reduced its shareholdings in Nokia by over a quarter. Other shareholders expressed concerns with the corporate policy Elop is espousing.

"He has closed doors," said Juha Varis, senior portfolio manager at Danske Capital. "They don't have new ideas now. Their fate is all in Windows Phones."

The problem with Elop's steady-as-she-goes course is that he appears to be losing the confidence of his crew. When that happens a mutiny is the traditional course, and Elop could well find himself walking the plank. ®