Nokia (NYSE:NOK) plans to announcing some major changes on March 18 during its Capital Markets Day event. Let’s hope it comes up with something drastic that will help prevent NOK stock from its constant decline.
The 5G telecom system maker wants to make its strategy more focused and employ a “more rigorous approach to capital allocation.”
A strategy change is in order. In the last month NOK stock is down 5% to less than $4 per share. Year-to-date the stock is about flat, up just 2%.
Problems in Its Business Outlook
The company indicated in its recently released annual report that on March 18 it will announce a new strategy. On page 16 of the report the company said:
” “Rebalancing for Growth” will be replaced with a refreshed corporate strategy. This will be announced at Capital Markets Day on March 18, 2021.“
Management had better do something. Nokia has been having difficulties with its main business. According to Reuters, the company said revenue at its mainstay networks business fell 7% to 5.04 billion euros ($6.05 billion). In addition growth in its 5G equipment sales in the quarter was partially offset by decreases in its legacy radio access products.
Reports surfaced in mid-2020 that Nokia was potentially going to lose a part of its Verizon (NYSE:VZ) 5G contract. The company never confirmed this. But Nokia’s new CEO Pekka Lundmark told investors when its 2020 results were released, he expected they would lose market share in North America in 2021. In addition, he warned about price decreases.
The company has already reorganized into four main divisions and spent 2020 cutting costs. This has had significant results. As I wrote last month, the company reported 1.356 billion EUR ($1.61 billion) in free cash flow for 2020. Most of that came in the second half and over half of it was during Q4.
Lower Sales Forecast
Nevertheless, Nokia says it expects a second year of declining sales, according to the Financial Times, and a “significant decline” in its core mobile networks. Citing the company’s outlook section on page 6 of its Feb. 4 earnings press release, the FT said the company forecasts 21.8 EUR billion in sales vs. 21.9 EUR billion in 2020. However, the actual statement by the company is:
“EUR 20.6 billion to EUR 21.8 billion, assuming continuation of 2020 year-end EUR/USD rate of 1.23“
So far this year, the EUR to USD exchange rate has shown dollar strength. It has risen from $1.21 at the beginning of the year to $1.19 now. This means that dollar revenue will translate into higher amounts of euros than forecast. Therefore, it is possible that in 2021 sales will not fall compared to 2020.
Nevertheless, the new CEO told the FT that “he was willing to sacrifice a little bit of profitability” in order to regain leadership in 5G technology. The FT said there was a logical question why Nokia had not won more 5G accounts, given the U.S.-led campaign against Huawei, its Chinese competitor. The FT article implied that was why the CEO and chairman at Nokia were replaced.
No Dividend Won’t Help NOK Stock
Nokia cut its dividend in late 2019 and indicated it would restore it once net cash was above 2 billion euros. On Feb. 5 management reported that its net cash and investments were now 2.485 billion euros. But it still declined to pay the dividend. Here is what Nokia’s president said on page 2 of its Feb. 4 press release:
“Regarding dividend, we are pleased with Nokia’s recent operational performance and satisfied that we have strengthened our cash position.“
This was some sort of attempt to recognize that it previously had said it would restore the dividend if net cash rose to 2 billion euros. But now there is a new hurdle:
“However, with the focus on increased investments in 5G and strategic areas, while continuing to establish a track record of sustainable cash generation, the Board does not propose a dividend or dividend authorization for the financial year 2020. We intend to provide an update on our dividend policy latest at Capital Markets Day. “
In other words, now we have to wait until Capital Markets Day to find out when the company will pay a dividend, if ever.
Don’t expect the stock to move higher until its dividend policy is clarified, once again … maybe. The company seems to be willing to make statements that it will not honor in relation to the dividend.
Therefore, don’t expect the market to be very impressed on Capital Markets Day. Its actions will speak louder than words, at least in terms of the dividend.
On the date of publication, Mark R. Hake did not hold, directly or indirectly, positions in any securities mentioned in this article.