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Good News for Nokia, but Still a Long Road Ahead

Chris Neiger
March 8, 2013

Yesterday, Nokia (NYSE: NOK) filed a 20-F with the SEC and said the company would net slightly more with its current Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) deal this year than it pays out in software fees to the Redmond company. That's good news for Nokia investors, but there's still a lot of work to be done.

Let's make a deal
Under the 2011 agreement between Microsoft and Nokia, the Finnish company pays Microsoft fees for using the Windows Phone OS, while Microsoft pays Nokia $250 million each quarter to help the company stay afloat. Nokia expects its deal with Microsoft to pay off through sales of its Lumia smartphone line and other phones. In the recent filing, Nokia said it expects its smartphone and mobile phone growth to outpace the market and bring in an operating margin of 10% or more.

In the filing, Nokia said, "Over the life of the agreement the total amount of the platform support payments is expected to slightly exceed the total amount of the minimum software royalty commitment payments. As of the end of 2012, the amount of platform support payments received by Nokia has exceeded the amount of minimum software royalty commitment payments made to Microsoft, thus the net cash flows have been in our favor."

So far, Nokia has sold a total of 15 million Lumia phones, 1 million in the last few months of 2011 and 14 million in 2012, with 4.4 million of those coming in Q4 2012. The money from the Microsoft deal and the current Lumia sales are all good news for Nokia, but the company still faces some major difficulties. 

The road ahead
China is the world's largest smartphone market, yet Nokia only holds 1% of the handset market share in the country. The company ran into supply problems in China recently, which hurt sales of the Lumia 920T, and further hindered the company's expansion in the market. But Nokia recently released the Lumia 520, a Windows Phone starting around $180 that the company hopes will make huge gains in China. A successful Windows Phone in China would be great news for Nokia, but it would also bring up other concerns.

If the Windows Phone platform takes off, Nok