June 2011
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Day June 1, 2011

Is Nokia worth less than Skype?

Yesterday Nokia warned that its guidance for the quarter and the year were “no longer valid.” The surprise to me is that management was surprised. In February I warned that even if Nokia could fool consumers into buying products whose platform was publicly executed, distributors and operators would not likely go along with the deception. Pricing collapse is the proof of a channel breakdown.

That seemed predictable. What I struggled with was how Nokia itself could present such an optimistic forecast. Absent any explanation, Nokia’s forecast of robust sales for Symbian products into the near future belies a failure of understanding of the dynamics of platforms and especially the impact of destruction of trust and brand value that commenced in February. Distress is a slippery slope and it does not model well in a spreadsheet. It takes a leap of non-linear faith to predict the piling-on effect on the up- and the down-side.

Faith in the company’s guidance meant that the market reacted to the bad news by discounting Nokia down to a market cap of $26.7 billion. One analyst even cut his target price down to $4/share, 57% of yesterday’s close. How can this fair? What is Nokia’s phone business worth?