Nokia Oyj (NOK1V), the world’s largest mobile-phone maker by volume, said Henry Tirri will take over the duties of Chief Technology Officer Rich Green, who started a leave of absence for personal reasons.
Tirri, based in Palo Alto, California, is the head of the Nokia Research Center, which has offices in a dozen locations from Berkeley to Nairobi. Nokia won’t provide a timetable for Green’s return, Doug Dawson, a spokesman for the Espoo, Finland- based company, said by phone today.
Green’s departure came a week after Nokia slashed its sales and profit forecasts, which triggered a slump of the stock to its lowest price in 13 years. Chief Executive Officer Stephen Elop is readying a line of phones based on Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Phone 7 operating system to replace the company’s own Symbian line, which is losing out to Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iPhone and Android handsets based on Google Inc. (GOOG)’s system. Nokia targets the fourth quarter for the first Windows handset.
“The company doesn’t seem to have much defense for the next 12 months,” Nomura analyst Richard Windsor said today in at the Open Mobile Summit in London. “The high-end market is lost and the opportunity for Nokia to come back is in the $200- $300 device market and the Windows Phone for that won’t be here till next year.”
Nokia’s long-term credit rating was cut by one level to BBB+ from A- and the company was placed on CreditWatch negative at S&P today. The rating is three steps above speculative grade. It was the second ratings cut for the Finnish handset maker this week after Fitch on June 7 cut its rating on Nokia to the lowest investment grade.
“Nokia will likely report significantly weaker operating results in 2011 than we had expected,” S&P analysts including Matthias Raab in Frankfurt wrote in the statement. The “unexpected and significant sales and profit warning” caused S&P to reduce its sales estimates to a 10 percent decline in handset revenue.
The rating cut won’t have a material impact on the company’s financing costs, Nokia spokesman James Etheridge said in an e-mailed statement. S&P said Nokia’s “exceptional” liquidity position can more than cover its needs for the “foreseeable” future.
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“We have the assets, we have the innovation,” Elop said in London today. “When you go through our labs and resource centers, when you see what’s available and say oh, if I could just get that faster and working better, we can do very well.”
Green started as chief technology officer in May last year to define “Nokia’s technology vision across hardware, software, user experience, cloud services and developer programs,” according to the company’s website. He joined Nokia after a 19- year career at Sun Microsystems Inc., where he was in charge of software as executive vice president.
Nokia’s Dawson said the company doesn’t expect the personnel change to have impact on its product strategy or the timeline for handset introduction. Elop said today he plans to cut time to market by “at least a third.”
Nokia said in April it will outsource its Symbian development to Accenture Plc, moving over 3,000 workers and cutting 4,000 jobs, as part of an effort to cut 1 billion euros in expenses.
Elop reiterated today that speculation about a sale of Nokia to Microsoft or another company is “baseless.”
Nokia fell 0.2 percent to 4.29 euros at 2:02 p.m. in Helsinki. The stock has fallen 45 percent this year, cutting the company’s market value to 16 billion euros ($23.4 billion).
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