Nokia chief executive Stephen Elop faced disgruntled shareholders at the AGM...with at least one saying "You're a nice guy ... and the leadership team is doing its best, but clearly, it's not enough." Photo: Reuters
Nokia investors told chief executive Stephen Elop on Tuesday that they were running out of patience with his flagging attempts to catch up with market leaders Apple and Samsung in smartphones.
Many shareholders at the annual general meeting in Helsinki said Elop should reconsider his 2011 decision to switch to the phone operating software made by his former employer Microsoft , which has left the company scrambling to get back in the race from a standing start with its new Lumia range of smartphones.
"You're a nice guy ... and the leadership team is doing its best, but clearly, it's not enough," one shareholder, Hannu Virtanen, told Elop. "Are you aware that results are what matter? The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Please switch to another road," he said.
The transition to Windows Phone from Nokia's own Symbian system was meant to take two years. That period is now over, and while recent results have shown growth in sales of Lumia smartphones using Windows Phone 8 software, the volumes pale in comparison with the top Samsung and Apple models, and sales of its regular mobile phones have plunged in the meantime.
Nokia shares have also plunged, now trading at €2.72, a fraction of their €65 peak in 2000.
Asked why they still held Nokia stock despite poor results and a suspension in annual dividends, some older attendants at the AGM admitted to being sentimental about a firm that symbolised Finland's rebirth after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, its main trading partner.
Institutional investors have been less willing to cling on; Finnish pension fund Ilmarinen, its second-largest shareholder, recently revealed it had cut its stake by 27 per cent in the first quarter.
NO PLAN B
Elop on Tuesday reiterated the company's commitment to Windows Phone software.
"We make adjustments as we go. But it's very clear to us that in today's war of ecosystems, we've made a very clear decision to focus on Windows Phone with our Lumia product line," he said. "And it is with that that we will compete with competitors like Samsung and Google's operating system Android."
Juha Varis, senior portfolio manager at Danske Capital, which owns Nokia shares, said Elop may be making a mistake.
"He has closed doors," he said in a phone interview. "They don't have new ideas now. Their fate is all in Windows Phones."
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