Samsung set to seize Nokia's handset lead in Q1
Korean giant expected to report shipments of 92m cellphones, well ahead of Nokia's 83m
Published: 12 April, 2012
It looks as though Samsung will achieve its long-held ambition of seizing Nokia's crown as the world's largest handset maker, at least for the first quarter of 2012. The Korean giant unseated its Finnish rival last year as the leading smartphone vendor, and is now set to claim the overall prize, held by Nokia for an unbroken period of 14 years.
The rivals have not yet reported official Q112 results, but Samsung last week published preliminary figures, which indicated a record quarter for its handset business, particularly driven by its Galaxy range. By contrast, Nokia yesterday slashed its first half forecasts, warning of an operating loss, despite signs of growing momentum behind its Lumia smartphone range.
According to a Bloomberg survey of analysts, Samsung is likely to have shipped 92m cellphones in the quarter, well ahead of Nokia's total of 83m, which has been hit by tough competition in emerging markets and its smartphone transition. Samsung is estimated to have sold 44m smartphones in the quarter, more than three times the year-ago total.
"Samsung is displacing Nokia fast," Lee Sun Tae, an analyst at NH Investment & Securities in Korea, told Bloomberg. "Nokia, with no competitiveness in smartphones, will keep losing ground." Another Seoul-based analyst, Kim Young Chan at Shinhan Investment, perhaps betrayed a little national pride, commenting: "The net result is Samsung edging out Nokia faster than expected."
But Samsung's stock has gained 20% in value so far this year, while Nokia's has fallen by 20% in the same period, and a real turnaround for the Finnish firm cannot be expected until the second half of the year at the earliest, when it will have a more rounded WP7 range.
However, despite a warm reception for the Lumia models, which have sold two million to date and have made a high profile US debut, Nokia will have a tough battle. Later in the year, it will face the launch of the 'iPhone 5', a factor which may also slow Samsung's trajectory. Its own follow-up to its wildly successful Galaxy S II is expected in June, probably just ahead of the new iPhone, which could be problematic timing. Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi commented: "Although Samsung seems to be doing no wrong in the Android camp, I think with the Galaxy S III it is going to struggle to get the same success as the S II had."
Nokia first became the world's largest handset maker in 1998, overtaking Motorola and setting up a head-to-head battle which lasted until the appearance of the new smartphone era, heralded by the iPhone.