Nokia Oyj, the world’s biggest maker of mobile phones, said the head of its smartphone division resigned, becoming the first casualty of the change at the top of the company.
Anssi Vanjoki will stay in his job for now and has a six-month notice period, the Espoo, Finland-based company said in a statement today. Nokia last week appointed Microsoft Corp.’s business division president, Stephen Elop, to take over from Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo as chief executive officer.
Vanjoki, a 20-year Nokia veteran, is the last executive remaining from Chairman Jorma Ollila’s 1990s “Dream Team,” which also included Kallasvuo, whose final day on the job is Sept. 20. Elop will take over the next day.
Barclays Capital upgraded Nokia to “overweight” from “equal weight,” and said in a note dated today that it expects Elop to help the company’s stuttering software operations and possibly change its operating systems.
“This marks the end of an era at Nokia and could signal further management changes to follow,” CCS Insight analyst Ben Wood said by text message.
Nokia gained as much as 2.6 percent to 7.99 euros and was trading up 2.4 percent at 7.98 euros at 12:13 p.m. in Helsinki.
“We believe new CEO Stephen Elop will bring much-needed software development expertise to Nokia,” Andrew Gardiner and other analysts wrote in the Barclay’s report. The appointment of the 46 year-old Canadian “does signal that Nokia recognizes the need for dramatic change.”
Nokia’s smartphone market share slid to 37.4 percent in the second quarter from 45 percent a year earlier, according to Gartner Inc., as the company failed to bring out a touchscreen model that could compete with Apple Inc.’s iPhone. Vanjoki was tapped to head the smartphone unit in a management reshuffle in May following a drop in profits and investor criticism.
“I am one hundred percent committed to doing my best for Nokia until my very last working day,” Vanjoki said in the statement.
A former 3M Co. executive, Vanjoki has been credited with building the brand, including choosing the distinctive Nokia ringtone. The company turned to him for flamboyant introductions of new models, including the N97 touchscreen with Qwerty keyboard, which flopped against the iPhone last year because of slow hardware and poor integration with services. He’s scheduled to be on stage at the Nokia World event in London tomorrow as the company shows off its N8 touchscreen and unveils other new products.
Before running smartphones, Vanjoki was head of marketing and chief of the company’s multimedia division, which brought out the first N-series phones with video, music and navigation. He basically returned to that job in May, when he was charged with introducing the N8 touchscreen, the model designed to reinvigorate Nokia’s smartphone range.
The N95, Nokia’s first handset with GPS navigation, sold more than 10 million units and helped boost the operating margin in devices to more than 21 percent when it was introduced in 2007 shortly before the iPhone’s debut. This year’s second-quarter margin was 9.5 percent and Nokia said in July that it could fall as low as 7 percent in the third quarter. Nokia has lost about 61 percent of its market value since the iPhone was introduced in June 2007.
Vanjoki’s first response to the iPhone was a line of music phones that came out in August 2007. At the time of that announcement, he said, “If there is something good in the world, we copy with pride.” Apple has since cited that comment in an ongoing U.S. legal battle between the companies over patents used in their smartphones.