Update Nokia (NOK)

12/20/2010 3:30 pm EST


Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor, JubakPicks.com

Nokia (NOK) has put in a bid to be the other cell phone maker besides Apple (AAPL) to make a profit and have control over its business.

Now if the company could just get its new phone, the E7, out the door.

The success of Apple’s iPhone is built on the extraordinary power that controlling both he software and the hardware gives Apple. The company can make sure everything works together because it decides what gets on the platform and what doesn’t. No lame pre-installed apps from cell phone service providers. No word processing software that works differently in different programs on the same phone. No graphics that just kind of work.

Nokia is aiming for the same business model.

In early November the company decided to take full and sole control of the Symbian operating system for smart phones. To a degree Nokia had no choice. Its partners in the Symbian Foundation, set up to oversee the software, Samsung and Sony-Ericsson had abandoned the platform for Google’s Android. But Nokia decided that it would make the best of the hand it had been dealt: by taking over full control of the software, the company could customize the next version of the software for its next products and use it to develop a next generation operating system called MeeGo.

MeeGo is still scheduled to be introduced in 2011, but on December 14 Nokia announced that its new smart phone, designed to close some of the smart phone gap with not just Apple, but also Samsung and HTC, would miss the Christmas buying season completely. The phone wouldn’t hit stores until early 2011.

The delay isn’t a killer for either the E7 or for Nokia but it sure doesn’t do anything to help the company to regain momentum in the market. (Nokia’s last major smart phone, the N8, also hit the market late.) Nokia still owned 37% of the global smart phone market as of the end of the third quarter but that was down from 45% in the third quarter of 2009.

Smart phone sales rose by 96% in the third quarter of 2010 from a year earlier and accounted for 20% of the overall cell phone market. That overall market grew by 35% in the third quarter.

I think Nokia does have a future. (Which is why it remains in my Jubak Picks 50 portfolio http://jubakpicks.com// ) The company does know how to manufacture phones. They will eventually get the design right. And 37% of the smart phone market is something they can build on.

But I’d wait a bit yet on Nokia’s shares. I know the stock is down 37% from the April 5 closing high but I think the arrival of the E7 in stores will unleash another round of negative press: The phone was late. It doesn’t stack up. The Symbian operating system doesn’t cut it.  And on and on. The 52-week low is $8. I think there’s a good chance you’ll be able to get the stock for $8.50. And then even a recovery to $10.00 would represent an 18% gain.

Full disclosure: I don’t own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this post in my personal portfolio. The mutual fund I manage, Jubak Global Equity Fund, may or may not now own positions in any stock mentioned in this post. The fund did not own shares of Nokia as of the end of November. For a full list of the stocks in the fund as of the end of November see the fund’s portfolio at http://jubakfund.com/about-the-fund/holdings/
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