Finnish handset maker Nokia has belatedly come to the conclusion that it cannot fight back against its leaner, quicker rivals with its current CEO Olli-Pekka Kallusvuo still in place and so is searching for someone (probably an American) to take over. Martyn Warwick reports.
Back in the early Spring a report from research house Canalys showed that Nokia's market share had fallen back to 39 per cent, two per cent down on a year earlier, mainly as a result of fierce competition from the likes of Apple, Google and Samsung, and Nokia's own apparent inability to produce smartphones that catch the popular imagination and sell like hot cakes.
Nokia remains the world's pre-eminent handset manufacturer but its lead is steadily being whittled away and action needs to be taken now if the situation is to be remedied. Indeed, action should have been taken quite a while ago but it wasn't and now the problem is worse.
The news of the head-hunting expedition leaked a couple of days before Nokia's latest quarterly results are published - and they are expected to make dismal reading. Last month the company signaled that its next set of numbers would be lower than forecast and well below the expectations of analysts.
Furthermore, although Nokia is a negligible presence in North America, its stock price on Wall Street has dropped by 42 per cent over the past three months and something has to be done to prop it up or real disaster looms.
The company has been particularly badly hit by intense competition in the smartphone sector and, rather than tackling the problem head on, decided instead on a strategy focusing on selling low-end handsets into emerging markets.
As a quick fix it has helped the balance sheet to some extent but it is no long-term solution to the company's problems.
Nokia needs a sense of direction and leadership - the company has been shilly-shallying for too long. A prime example? The management can't even decide which operating system to use and has been vacillating between the Symbian OS and the Linux-based Meego. Neither have been particularly successful and by its demonstrated inability to back one OS and stick with it Nokia is coming across as indecisive and muddled in its strategy. Those that attempt to ride two horses at once usually end up under them and covered in hoof-prints - and worse.
Rumours also have it that the CEO's of several US telcos, manufacturers and other high-tech companies have quietly been flown to Helsinki in recent weeks and that at least one has turned down the job on the grounds of not wanting to move to live in Finland - despite the job's high-profile and attractions.
Olli-Pekka Kallusvuo is a Nokia man through and through and has been with the company for 30 years. He took over as CEO in 2006 but his time at the helm has not been conspicuously successful. Expectations are that he will be replaced perhaps by the end of this month and certainly before the end of August.
Nokia will neither confirm nor deny the rumours - so, I for one am taking that as confirmation that they are true. We'll see.
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