It's not every day that a company's stock jumps by double digits after announcing quarterly results that missed revenue expectations and eked past earnings-per-share (EPS) estimates. But that's exactly what Nokia (NYSE:NOK) shareholders saw following Q3's earnings on Oct. 29. Though its stock price has eased a bit from its high following the announcement, Nokia is still up about 12% from pre-earnings levels.
Why the good tidings? Yes, Nokia's networking division -- far and away its primary revenue driver -- saw an 11% drop in revenue last quarter, which was only slightly mitigated by a 7% improvement in its small but budding technologies unit. However, CEO Rajeev Suri shared more than financial results in Q3, including news that long-suffering shareholders are about to be rewarded for their patience.
This, too, shall pass
Nokia's $3.25 billion in revenue last quarter was well short of consensus analyst expectations of $3.9 billion, but the shortcoming in Q3 didn't prevent Suri from raising guidance for the balance of the year, thanks in large part to strong growth in China.
The day following Nokia's Q3 announcement, Suri shared some great news: The company had inked a deal with China Mobile (NYSE:CHL) to supply the region's largest mobile carrier with network infrastructure solutions and support in a partnership valued at over $1 billion. Nokia will also work with China Mobile in expanding its Internet of Things (IoT) services including smart cars, healthcare, and a host of other solutions.
Even before the China Mobile arrangement, Suri credited strong growth in China for partially offsetting Nokia's revenue declines in North America and Europe. With its new $1 billion-plus contract with China Mobile in place, it's no wonder Suri expects big things for the balance of this year and into the next.
More good news
The arrangement with China Mobile is nice, but hardly reason enough for Nokia's stock to jump by double digits. What really got investors motivated was the progress being made in closing Nokia's acquisition of former networking rival Alcatel-Lucent (UNKNOWN:ALU.DL). As per Suri, bringing Alcatel-Lucent into the fold should be finalized in early 2016, well ahead of earlier estimates.
Better still, not only will Nokia benefit from Alcatel-Lucent's strong European presence sooner than expected -- helping to offset declines in the region experienced last quarter -- but Suri said it will realize nearly $1 billion in cost savings a year earlier than originally forecast. Nokia is already benefiting from its efforts to become more efficient (as evidenced by its improved margins in Q3), which should make the additional savings associated with closing the Alcatel-Lucent deal even more impactful.
Even better news
The icing on what turned out to be a pretty nice cake last quarter was news that Nokia planned to institute a nearly $7.5 billion plan to reward shareholders and pay down debt. Through at least 2017, Nokia shareholders will receive a $0.16 per share quarterly dividend, which equates to a yield of approximately 2.1%. Additionally, a special dividend payout of $0.11 a share is scheduled for 2016, assuming shareholders give the OK.
Nokia also plans on instituting a $1.6 billion share buyback initiative beginning next year, along with the $3.3 billion earmarked for the aforementioned debt restructuring.
When you add it all up, it's no wonder Nokia shares have finally broken out of the doldrums. The deal for Alcatel-Lucent was already a good match thanks to its success in Europe. Now toss in a solid dividend yield, even more cost efficiencies than expected -- let alone sooner than originally planned -- along with making significant inroads in China, and Nokia's nice stock price run is not only warranted, but it saved the third quarter and positions it for more growth in the quarters to come.
Tim Brugger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends China Mobile. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.