Shares in Nokia jumped on Tuesday on news the world's top cellphone maker has sent out headhunters to find a replacement for Chief Executive Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo.
Kallasvuo, who turned 57 a week ago, has spent more than half of his life at Nokia and struggled to keep up with nimbler rivals Apple Inc and Google Inc.
Two sources in the wireless industry told Reuters Nokia is actively looking to hire replacement for Kallasvuo, confirming earlier report in the Wall Street Journal.
Kallasvuo, called just OPK in the company, may be ousted as early as the end of July, the newspaper cited a person familiar with the matter as saying. The firm has been rocked by two profit warnings and management shakeup this year alone.
There is a spark of hope that changes are coming, not only personnel changes, but also strategic changes, said Sami Sarkamies, an analyst at Nordea in Helsinki.
If true this is a good move. My feeling is that OPK has lost the confidence of investors and a change would be the best thing for Nokia, Gartner analyst Nick Jones said in a note.
Shares rose 3.1 percent to 6.98 euros by 1336 GMT while the Stoxx 600 European technology index eased 0.9 percent.
Nokia declined to comment, citing company policy regarding market rumors.
Analysts say Nokia has been slow to innovate amid an explosion of feature-rich multimedia gadgets like the Apple iPhone and devices based on Google's Android operating system.
Kallasvuo, a former company lawyer and chief financial officer who married a veteran Nokia attorney, has come under attack from shareholders this year as the stock price tanked. Shares in Nokia have wallowed at levels last seen in 1998.
Kallasvuo is a bad communicator in a world where his competitors are Steve Jobs, Eric Schmidt and Steve Ballmer, said John Strand, founder and chief executive of telecoms consultancy Strand Consult.
He is good at selling phones, but bad at selling the Nokia story, Strand said.
Analysts said investors would likely welcome a high-profile hire from leading U.S. companies like Google, Apple or IBM.
LOOKING FOR U.S. LEADER
The Wall Street Journal said Nokia had approached two U.S. technology executives who had turned down the offer.
Finding a U.S. CEO willing to move to Finland is going to be tough. Nokia hasn't traditionally paid massive compensation packages required for taking such punishment, said Tero Kuittinen, analyst at MKM Partners.
It's not obvious why Nokia would implement the elaborate reorganization move of May just ahead of changing the CEO -- the timing here looks a bit odd, Kuittinen added.
The May reshuffle of Nokia's top management team took effect only from the start of July.
Nokia has rarely picked outsiders to run the group. The highest position a non-Finn has ever reached in the company is CFO -- the post held for years by Rick Simonson, who was highly respected on Wall Street.
Nokia Chairman and former CEO Jorma Ollila said at the company's annual general meeting in May the board backed management strategy to push into Internet services at a time when some investors said Kallasvuo should go.
TOUGH 2010 AFTER TOUGH 2009
Nokia will be one of the few to miss profit growth in 2010, the year of economic recovery, and software problems continue to haunt its smartphone lineup.
Kallasvuo's total pay leapt 32 percent in 2009, a tough year for shareholders when the company's share price slid 20 percent.
Nokia's revenues fell 19 percent last year, while operating profit dropped 76 percent. The value of company's brand -- one of its key assets -- dropped 58 percent in just one year, according to a global study by Millward Brown.
Analysts say Nokia's market share position could weaken further in coming months.
Nokia warned last month its second-quarter sales and profits at its key phones unit would come in weaker than expected -- its second profit warning in less than two months.
Nokia is expected to post a 27 percent fall in second-quarter underlying earnings per share when its reports on Thursday, July 22.
Texas Instruments said overnight that weaker-than-expected orders from one mobile phone customer, identified as Nokia by some analysts, caused second-quarter revenue to miss Wall Street forecasts.
(Reporting by Tarmo Virki and Terhi Kinnunen in Helsinki, Phil Wahba in Los Angeles, Sinead Carew ; Editing by Samia Nakhoul, Hans Peters and Michael Shields)