Nokia sales and profit drop as economic challenges lead to cutback on 5G investment

HELSINKI — Nokia today reported a double-digit decline in sales and a fall in profit in the last three months of 2023, with the wireless and fixed-network equipment maker saying operators are cutting back on investments into 5G and other technology because of economic uncertainty.

The Espoo, Finland-based company reported net profit of 568 million euros ($619 million) for the October-to-December quarter, down from 929 million euros in the same period a year earlier.

Nokia is one of the world’s main suppliers of 5G, the latest generation of broadband technology, along with Sweden’s Ericsson, China’s Huawei and South Korea’s Samsung.

Nokia’s net income attributable to shareholders came in at 558 million euros in the fourth quarter, down from 931 million euros the previous year. Nokia’s sales also fell 23%, to 5.7 billion euros from 7.5 billion euros.

“In 2023 we saw a meaningful shift in customer behavior impacting our industry driven by the macro-economic environment and high interest rates,” CEO Pekka Lundmark said in a statement.

He also pointed to the effect of Nokia’s clients such as telecom operators that have already bought new equipment and don’t intend to get more.

“Looking ahead, we expect the challenging environment of 2023 to continue during the first half of 2024, particularly in the first quarter,” he said. “However, we are now starting to see some green shoots on the horizon” including improved order intake for Nokia’s network infrastructure unit.

In October, Nokia announced plans to cut up to 14,000 jobs to reduce costs. It said the measure was needed to enable Nokia to navigate in a weak market environment where low economic growth and high interest rates have put investments by clients on hold.

Other tech companies, such as online retailer eBay on Wednesday, are laying off workers and have pointed to the challenging economy, which has slowed following rapid interest rate hikes unleashed by central banks around the world to combat soaring inflation.