One of the mobile market's biggest surprises this summer is that shares of Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) have roughly doubled since bottoming out at $1.63 last month.
Really. The beleaguered handset maker was trading as high as $3.39 on Monday.
However, Bernstein Research analyst Pierre Ferragu is crashing the party, arguing that now may be the ideal time to go short the Finnish mobile icon. Reiterating his firm's "underperform" rating and $3.25 price target, Ferragu isn't upbeat on the company's partnership with Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) on the Lumia line of smartphones powered by Windows Phone.
"Given the strength of Android and Apple today in consumers' minds and the scale of both ecosystems, it is unrealistic to believe anything short of a true product revolution, like the iPhone was in its time, could instill life into an alternative platform," he writes -- as retold by Barron's tech blogger Tiernan Ray.
Yes, Ferragu is fully aware that Microsoft and Nokia will have shiny new smartphones to introduce during next week's Nokia World conference. Microsoft is willing to throw billions into its pursuit of Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) , but Ferragu simply points to the lack of consumer interest in Microsoft's mobile operating system over the years.
He has a point, but what about the reason Nokia rallied earlier this week? Once Apple emerged victorious against Samsung over the weekend, many interpreted that outcome as a setback for Android and an opportunity for Windows Phone.
It's also risky to bet against Nokia at this point. The fallen legend may be poor in prospects, but it's rich in cash. Nokia was essentially trading for its net cash position when it bottomed out last summer. As bad as things might get, Nokia has enough money to keep trying until it gets it right.
Things aren't pretty for Nokia now. Revenue is declining. Nokia posted back-to-back quarterly losses to start the year, and analysts see more of the same until next year. However, it's hard to bet against a company that is still globally influential -- not to mention its even wealthier software partner -- ahead of next week's news.
Nokia will never be the company that it used to be, but it's not priced that way, either.
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