- Associated Press - Thursday, June 14, 2012

HELSINKI (AP) - Nokia says it will slash 10,000 jobs and close plants as the ailing company fights fierce competition, and gave a grim outlook for most of the year, causing its shares to plummet 18 percent to close at (EURO)1.83 ($2.30).

The Finnish cellphone maker also on Thursday announced personnel changes and said it has agreed to sell its luxury phone brand, Vertu.

The measures, aimed at additional cost savings of (EURO)1.6 billion ($2 billion) by the end of next year, will shut down research and development facilities in Ulm, Germany, and Burnaby, British Columbia. Nokia said it will also close its main Finnish manufacturing plant in Salo, with 850 layoffs, but will keep its research and development center there.

Nokia Corp. updated its outlook, saying that heavy competition would continue to hit its smartphone sector in the second quarter, but to a “somewhat greater extent than previously expected” and that the downturn would continue in the third quarter.

Markets were disappointed, plunging Nokia shares to below (EURO)2.00 for the first time ever on the Helsinki Stock Exchange.

Nordea analyst in Helsinki, Sami Sarkamies, said Nokia’s scale of the cost cutting took many by surprise and might not help to strengthen the company.

“When you make such drastic cuts you have to abandon a lot of things,” Sarkamies said. “It may be that they just can’t anymore afford to come up with innovative, new things.”

CEO Stephen Elop said the planned cuts were “a difficult consequence of the intended actions we believe we must take to ensure Nokia’s long-term competitive strength.”

“We are increasing our focus on the products and services that our consumers value most while continuing to invest in the innovation that has always defined Nokia,” he added.

The loss-making company has been struggling against fierce competition from Apple Inc.’s iPhone and other makers using Google Inc.’s popular Android software, including Samsung Electronics Co. and HTC of Taiwan. It is also being squeezed in the low-end by Asian manufacturers making cheaper phones, such as China’s ZTE.

Markets had been expecting Nokia to signal some improvement in its earnings expectations for this year after it joined forces with Microsoft Corp. in 2011, launching several Windows Phone 7 models, including its sleek Lumia range.

But the new handsets have received mixed reviews and the company and made no mention of the much-anticipated Windows 8 version. Its revised outlook bodes ill for the former bellwether of the wireless industry that held the No. 1 cellphone maker spot for 14 years.

Elop said that more than a third of the global job cuts _ 3,700 _ will be in Finland, sending shivers through the small Nordic nation that has been intensely proud of Nokia’s past success.

But he pledged to keep the company’s corporate headquarters in Espoo, near the capital, Helsinki, and said much of the R &D will continue here.

Nokia’s core is in Finland. We firmly believe that at the heart of any company, the soul of a company, is something that includes its national identity,” Elop said. “We continue to have significant operations in Finland. In fact, two-thirds of our Lumia team is in Finland.”

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