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Nokia's Rating Changes Following Restructuring Announcement

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Nokia (NYSE: NOK), the Finnish telecommunications company, was upgraded from Sell to Neutral by Citigroup this morning.

Citi analyst Zahid Hussein said that Nokia had made some drastic changes that would be critical to the company's future viability, namely a major restructuring program, the lowering of second quarter guidance, management changes, and the acquisition of imaging technologies from Scalado.

Citi elaborated that Nokia has lowered the second-quarter guidance to below 3% and that there has been a global headcount reduction of 10,000. Additionally, two research & development sites and one manufacturing plant have been closed.

"Whilst Nokia is unlikely to gain any pricing power in a WP ecosystem anytime soon (we model flat D&S GM of 24% for both FY12/13), should Nokia execute on opex savings, Nokia could return to break-even as early as 3Q12, far quicker than the market anticipates, and we consequently upgrade to Neutral from Sell," said Hussein.

Citi is not the only bank which upgraded Nokia, with Oppenheimer upgrading the company to Perform this morning as well. Oppenheimer stated that Nokia announced sizable layoffs and lowered its 2Q12 outlook. The cost cuts buy Nokia more time to turn around its business without bleeding cash in the process.

"We still have doubts the changes would transform Nokia into a fast-moving differentiated OEM. And with competitive headwinds getting stronger, macro getting weaker, and Nokia's workforce distracted, we still see near-term risk in the shares," Oppenheimer said.

Conversely, Credit Suisse downgraded Nokia from Outperform to Neutral today, and later on Moody's downgraded Nokia's debt grade to junk status.

Moody's said Nokia Corp.'s plans to focus "its direct marketing on fewer markets, streamlining support functions and reducing investments in certain R&D projects ... delineates a scale of earnings pressure and cash consumption that is larger than we had previously assumed."

While that series of upgrades and downgrades might seem confusing, Credit Suisse had Nokia rated at Outperform fairly on January 5, 2012, and has only been catching up over the past couple of months. Moody's downgrade, of course, relates to the company's credit rating.

But the upgrades are most interesting. Analysts are looking at the potential rumored investment from Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and the value of the company if it were to be sold.

With all of that in mind, the upgrades are appropriate.

Follow me @BCallwood.

Posted-In: Analyst Color News Upgrades Downgrades Global Economics Analyst Ratings Movers Best of Benzinga

 

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