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Nokia Is Cutting Up to 10,000 Jobs to Boost 5G Investment. What It Means for the Stock.

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Markku Ulander /Lehtikuva/AFP via Getty Images

Nokia has unveiled plans to ax up to 10,000 jobs as part of a €600 million cost-cutting program aimed at boosting investment in 5G.

The telecom-equipment maker said resetting its cost base would allow it to invest in research and development and long-term growth areas, including 5G, cloud technologies and digital infrastructure.

The stock, which has been a favorite among retail investors and Reddit users in recent months, edged 0.5% higher in premarket trading, while the Finnish-listed shares rose 0.6% on Tuesday.

The company said it expects to lower its cost base by around €600 million by the end of 2023. As part of the restructuring, Nokia said its global workforce would be reduced from 90,000 to between 80,000 and 85,000 employees over the next two years. The company maintained its 2021 outlook.

The U.S.-listed shares are up 10% year-to-date but that doesn’t tell the whole story. The shares climbed 55% in the space of three days at the end of January, prompting the company to release a statement saying it could not explain the rally. The stock has since retreated 52%.

Aside from the volatility, Nokia’s fourth-quarter earnings were stronger-than-expected, driven by 5G margin expansion. Nokia and its Nordic rival Ericsson have benefited from a number of western countries banning China’s Huawei from 5G networks on national security grounds.

However, the Finnish company said its rate of converting its 4G footprint into 5G in 2020 was affected by shortfalls in China and North America. It also lost out to Samsung on a $6.6 billion deal with Verizon. Revenue is expected to fall for a second consecutive year in 2021, Nokia said, citing market share loss and price erosion in North America.

Read:Nokia Stock Crush After Cutting Profit Outlook. The New CEO May Be Clearing the Decks.

Looking ahead. When Chief Executive Pekka Lundmark, who took charge in August last year, unveiled a new strategy in October, he promised to do “whatever it takes” to lead in 5G. The company’s restructuring plan is evidence of that. After falling behind, Nokia needs to start picking up market share to challenge the likes of Ericsson and Huawei.

Nokia’s capital markets day on Thursday will be the next major event for investors to closely monitor, as Lundmark sets out his long-term strategy and financial outlook. JPMorgan Cazenove analysts said Nokia was likely to come across as confident of turnaround potential. But they said the company was unlikely to “raise the bar significantly” with mid-to-long-term guidance, leaving upside potential if the turnaround proceeds better than expectations.

They rated the stock ‘neutral’ with a target price of $4.30. “We see no reason to turn bullish ahead of the day as we think the turnaround is going to take time,” they said.

Lundmark’s words again were clear on Tuesday as he said “in those areas where we choose to compete, we will play to win.” Words are one thing, it’s now time for action.