Elop rejects Nokia sale rumours as ‘baseless’

Stephen Elop, Nokia’s chief executive, insisted the deeply troubled mobile phone maker was not for sale, saying takeover speculation was “baseless”.

Mr Elop gave a bullish assessment of Nokia’s prospects at a London conference on Thursday, claiming that he was pleased with early versions of its planned smartphones based on Microsoft’s software.

However, Nokia’s difficulties in trying to fight back against Apple and Google in the smartphone market were underlined by another credit rating downgrade for the Finnish company.

Standard & Poor’s said on Thursday it was lowering Nokia’s long-term rating to BBB plus from A minus following the company’s profit warning last month.

Fitch cut its long-term rating on Nokia to one notch above junk status on Tuesday, and there has been fevered speculation, particularly in the blogosphere, since the profit warning about a sale of Nokia or its handset business, with Microsoft and Samsung named as possible buyers.

“All these rumours are baseless,” said Mr Elop, speaking at the Open Mobile Summit. When pressed to confirm that Nokia was not for sale, Mr Elop responded: “That is correct.”

Nokia’s shares have fallen almost 80 per cent since Apple launched its iPhone in 2007. The shares closed almost unchanged on Thursday to €4.31.

Mr Elop unveiled a turnround plan for Nokia in February, saying it would use Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system in future smartphones. Nokia’s Symbian software has been widely criticised as providing a poor experience for users compared to Apple’s iOS operating system, and Google’s Android platform. Some analysts say it is critical that Nokia’s first smartphones based on Windows Phone do not miss a sales launch deadline late this year, with a range becoming available in 2012.

The main threat to Nokia comes from Android, which launched in 2008 and in the fourth quarter of last year overtook Symbian as the most popular smartphone operating system.

Smartphones featuring Android are rapidly expanding in number and falling in price, and proving popular in Nokia’s core sales regions of Asia and Europe.

Mr Elop insisted there was still time for Nokia to catch up with Apple and Android, saying he was encouraged by prototypes of the Finnish company’s Windows Phone smartphones that he had seen at its San Diego research and development facility.

He also said Nokia would seek to expand progressively the range of Windows Phone smartphones, so that they catered for less well-off consumers as well as those who are more affluent.

He accepted the need for Nokia to speed up the development of its products, saying it was planning to cut the amount of time it took to bring devices to market by a third.

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