May 3 - After losing its position as the world's largest handset maker, the Finnish cellphone manufacturer Nokia staged its annual general meeting in Helsinki where Chief Executive Stephen Elop defended his strategy. Matt Cowan reports.
Amid slipping sales and a sagging share price, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop delivered an address to company shareholders in the firm's hometown of Helsinki. SOUNDBITE: Stephen Elop, Nokia CEO saying (English): "Like you we were disappointed with our financial results over the last year and most notably during the first quarter. It reflects both the transition that Nokia is currently undergoing as well as the increase in competitive pressures within our industry." It wasn't so long ago that Elop was talking about a 'new dawn' for Nokia, but the Finnish company lost its position as the world's largest handset maker to Samsung in the last quarter and its also been surpassed in the lucrative high end of the market. Elop announced a strategic partnership with Microsoft in February of 2011 but sales of the new Lumia smartphone range have been slower than hoped. After a 90 percent fall in the company's share price over the past five years - two thirds of that since the shift in strategy was announced - shareholder patience is running thin. SOUNDBITE: Tomi Lahti, Nokia shareholder saying (English): "Well it doesn't look so good but I think the main problem is this (shows iPad) that Nokia doesn't have a tablet like Apple. The company is widely expected to unveil its first tablet computer later this year. SOUNDBITE: Ari Rikkilä, Nokia shareholder, saying (English): "Nokia has a great heritage doing the mobility business and I truly believe this strategy will be right. Honestly we don't know. Right now it's Apple and Google dominating, but people tend to change their minds and I truly believe that the Nokia/Microsoft combination could be great for the future." Nokia has traditionally been viewed as a national treasure in Finland, transitioning from a company that once made rubber boots to become a world leader in cellphone sales. But now it is just one of many contenders in the market it used to dominate. Matt Cowan, Reuters