Nokia Siemens Networks Announces Radical Strategy Review

Nokia Seimens Networks’ top management has finally pulled the emergency brakes, after months of unsuccessful attempts to find a buyer. Going forward, NSN will focus on mobile network infrastructure and the services market. All other areas are non-core and subject to disposal. We estimate that about two-thirds of NSN’s current portfolio will remain in this new focus area. NSN will retain an attractive product and services portfolio and innovative solutions, as for instance its Liquid Net offering. However, some elements, like convergence offerings, will be difficult to pursue credibly in the future.

In our view, the new focus NSN is taking is right:

  • NSN is focusing on growth segments of the infrastructure market. NSN aims to provide the most efficient mobile networks (including network outsourcing and sharing) to extract maximum value for telcos’ operations by developing intelligent network solutions and boost customer experience management.
  • NSN will generate large savings from operating expenses and production overheads. NSN targets savings of €1 billion annually by the end of 2013. NSN tries to achieve this goal be focusing on organizational streamlining, real estate, information technology, product and service procurement costs, G&A, and supplier consolidation. Despite good revenue growth in recent quarters, NSN’s revenues per employee remain well below that of Ericsson’s in 2010 and even lags Huawei’s. NSN’s plans to reduce its global workforce by 17,000, or 23%, will go some way to address this imbalance.
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T-Systems’ Analyst Summit 2011: Getting Past A Lost Year

T-Systems’ Analyst Summit 2011 in Frankfurt was dominated by updates on the progress the company made regarding its restructuring projects. As a result of these efforts, T-Systems has created the basis to become a more efficient and agile ICT services provider going forward. Still, in our view, the period between mid-2010 to mid-2011 was a lost year for T-Systems — despite the obvious progress T-Systems made in addressing its past challenges.

In some respects, T-Systems had become a victim of its own success in 2009 and 2010. T-Systems was clearly overwhelmed by its multibillion deals (with clients including Linde, BP, Shell, E.ON, MAN, Continental, etc). Delivery capacities were stretched to the limit, manifesting in serious transition and transformation challenges. T-Systems was forced to allocate more capacities to big deals, thus depressing margins to just over 2% in Q3 2011 (see chart below). T-Systems still aims to reach the peer-group average EBIT margin.

Source: company reports

About a year ago, T-Systems began to restructure its entire operations in a mammoth project, effectively redrawing the entire organisational structure and reshuffling the top management team, except for the CEO and CFO. The Analyst Summit provided some insights that these efforts are beginning to bear fruit:

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Fujitsu Forum 2011 In Munich: A Global Reset

During its Fujitsu Forum, which was attended by over 10,000 customers and partners, Fujitsu presented itself as a company in transformation from a fairly disjointed business to a more streamlined international business. Fujitsu’s new strategy has three main components:

  • Focus on organic growth: Fujitsu is investing more in its sales and services structure as well as its internal IT systems. It aims to get better in what it has already been doing, such as exploiting its large software and hardware portfolio, including smartphones, thin clients, handsets, tablets, mainframes, laptops, and super computers. In terms of services, Fujitsu is pushing its multivendor maintenance capabilities and its IT outsourcing experience. Fujitsu considers its product knowledge and near- and offshore mix a key, unique selling point vis-à-vis its competitors. Given Fujitsu's weak marketing and sales structures of the past, we would believe that it is high-time to improve its go-to-market approach.
  • Target emerging markets: The main focus is on Russia, India, and the Middle East. Fujitsu is ramping up local operations and also adapting its go-to-market approaches. For instance, in India it is using its promotion campaign via auto rickshaw on “see-try-buy” basis. Fujitsu’s goal is to double emerging markets sales by 2015 from €800 in 2010. Given its Asian roots, it is astonishing how long it took Fujitsu to realise the opportunities at its doorstep.
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Huawei Analyst Summit 2011: Extending The Competition To Mobile Devices And Enterprise Solutions

During its European Analyst Summit in London, Huawei provided details regarding two crucial elements of its expanding market positioning: It outlined its intention to launch mobile devices and enterprise solutions. Although Huawei has been engaged in these activities in China for some time, it is a new and exciting step for its European strategy. Competitors should not underestimate Huawei’s ability to take business away from them in these areas.

Huawei’s mobile device range for Europe is small, but very effective. The company targets the low-end smartphone segment with a €100 device (Blaze), the mid-market (Vision), and high-end (Honour), in addition to a tablet (Media Pad). The marketing strategy is to position these devices as affordable, easy-to-use, and reliable (i.e., the “Volkswagen of the mobile devices”). All devices are touch, have fast processors, crisp screens, and retail at about €100 below competitors’ offerings. Timing is good for Huawei, given the relative weakness of the competitive landscape, especially RIM and Sony Ericsson. Initial customer feedback on sites such as Amazon.com reflects positive customer experiences.

The fact that Huawei has no consumer brand in many European countries should not be a great obstacle. Rather, Huawei could use this factor in order to involve its emerging customer base to build a brand using social networking and viral marketing. Traditional big-board advertising campaigns would be pointless: Nokia will dominate the traditional channels with its Lumia campaign in the coming months. The main channels for Huawei will be MVNOs like Fonic, consumer electronics outlets like Phone4U, as well as selected larger operators.

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Nokia World 2011: Back From The Brink But Not Yet Fully Out Of The Woods

Dan Bieler and Katyayan Gupta

This was possibly the most important Nokia World event ever. Nokia had to demonstrate that it can deliver against its plans. In February 2011, Nokia communicated its intention to team up with Microsoft to develop its new platform and to “entrust” its Symbian operating system to Accenture. In total, 3,000 visitors from 70 countries attended Nokia World 2011 in London to hear and see what the “new Nokia” looks like.

In essence, it was clear what Nokia World 2011 would be all about before the actual event had even started. Nokia had to produce a device that can take on the iPhone and the Galaxy. At the event, Nokia announced the launch of the first “real Windows phone” in the form of the Lumia 800. The result is an impressive device that certainly secured Nokia a seat at the table of the tripartite of leading smartphones platforms.

At a price point of €420, the Lumia 800 impresses through a very intuitive and refreshing interface. And yes, the choice of Microsoft as a partner has certainly produced the best ever Nokia device. It will give Apple and Samsung a run for their money. It was all the more noticeable that Microsoft was absent during the key note address. Nokia also unveiled its emerging market flagship "Asha" device series, which sits somewhere between feature and smartphones. The Asha family comprises four models that target the youth segment in emerging markets. These devices are priced between €60 to €115, feature touch and QWERTY, games like Angry Birds, and one of them is also dual SIM.

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Sprint’s Headache Equals Deutsche Telekom’s Migraine

In recent weeks, Sprint’s shares have been hammered. The share price has fallen by 40% since the beginning of the year, reflecting investors’ concerns about the long-term position of Sprint in the US wireless market. Not surprisingly, Sprint has been the most vocal opponent of the planned $39B acquisition of T-Mobile US by AT&T, which was announced in March 2011. Sprint argues that the deal would manifest itself in a loss of competition in the US wireless market if the fourth- and second-largest wireless carriers in the US merge (Sprint is No. 3). The US Department of Justice (DoJ) seems to share this concern and blocked the acquisition in August 2011 in order to preserve a vibrant and competitive marketplace.

Despite the DoJ’s opposition, most observers expected some form of compromise to emerge, even if it took a court fight to do so. Both AT&T and Deutsche Telekom (DT) reiterated their eagerness to pursue the deal as the DoJ announced its decision. However, in our view, Sprint’s challenging situation increases the likelihood that the deal will not go through as planned: Sprint looks weaker now than several months ago. Its announcement in October 2011 that it will take on additional debt to fund the rollout of its LTE network only increases liquidity concerns. This will sway the DOJ’s position further toward rejecting the deal for good in an effort to support a healthy US wireless market.

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Orange Business Services: Cautious Maybe – But Sensible

It’s easy to bash incumbent telcos, to count them as being among the losers in the digital revolution. Cloud services players are taking business from telcos in the storage and server capacity space. Over-the-top providers are free-riding on the telco infrastructure. Software firms are eating into the communication business. Regulators are pressing for further price reductions. And to top this scenario, telcos are continuing to undercut each other in price wars.

During a round of executive discussions with Forrester, Orange Business Services (OBS) has shown that against these odds, it keeps a pretty even keel regarding the most hyped topics in ICT, most notably cloud and mobility. OBS is selective in its cloud offerings, focusing on UCaaS and IaaS. UCaaS is a natural extension of its communication business and thus falls into OBS’ home turf. All telcos should see communication services from the cloud as a natural extension of what they have always done.

OBS’ drive into IaaS, meanwhile, looks like a less convincing pitch. Its IaaS offering essentially comprises a virtual data centre offering with virtual firewalls and load balancing. The question is: How OBS can compete against the dominant cloud players in the storage and server space? In the short term, such an approach is conceivable. However, OBS will need to provide a much broader range of virtual infrastructure choices to avoid slipping into a low-margin market segment.

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Financial Market Turmoil And The Impact On Telecoms Providers

As a former investment analyst, I remember the feeling when stock market screens turn deep red. Such days turn one’s stomach upside down on a dealing floor. But even from the outside, such days are unnerving. The big question in the telecoms markets making the rounds at present is how the current market turmoil will affect the telcos. The 2008 financial crisis might provide some clues to what we could expect in 2011 and 2012, albeit in a less-pronounced fashion:

  • Consumer spending on communications will remain pretty stable. During the last financial crisis, spending on communications remained largely untouched by the consumer. We do expect a slight migration towards flat rates for customers with the desire for greater cost certainties and towards prepaid by customers with the desire to lower their communication expenditure. One obvious danger in times of turmoil are price wars between service providers. They can offer only short-term growth relief, but at a high cost. Resulting poor margins will be felt for a long time.
  • Businesses will put nonessential IT projects on hold or water them down. We have not yet seen evidence that COOs and IT departments have tapped the brakes on their tech buying, but they certainly have become more cautious. If the economies of the US or Europe go into recession — a possibility, but not our baseline forecast — that will hit IT budgets, as happened in 2008 and 2009. I am hearing from telecoms providers that their enterprise sales pipelines are already under pressure as customers slow their IT investments and look for ways to reduce their telecom services spending. Projects that support end-users with their sales efforts, e.g., sales force automation projects, are likely to be less affected than others.
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