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S&P Cuts Nokia Credit Rating Again, Keeps Outlook Negative

By Sven Grundberg STOCKHOLM--Credit rating agency Standard & Poor's Wednesday further downgraded Nokia Corp.'s (NOK) credit rating, and warned that the Finnish handset maker might have to lower prices of its Lumia smartphones further in the coming quarters to defend its market position. S&P lowered Nokia's credit rating to BB- from BB+, and kept the outlook for the company's credit at negative. The agency said Nokia's second-quarter results and its financial guidance for the third quarter were lower than it had expected. "We have subsequently also revised our cash-flow assumptions, including the impact from Nokia's restructuring of its Devices and Services division," it said. The rating cut is the second by S&P since April. After a series of credit downgrades, Nokia's credit now carries junk status by all three major credit rating agencies. S&P's decision comes as Nokia is under significant scrutiny about its cash position as it undergoes a painful transition to adopt Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Windows Phone operating system for its future smartphones. By the end of the second quarter, Nokia's net cash position stood at 4.2 billion euros ($5.16 billion), down from EUR4.9 billion at the end of the first quarter. S&P said it anticipates that Nokia's net cash will fall below EUR3 billion by the end of the year, including its restructuring outflows. Nokia responded to the downgrade by saying it has a "strong financial position and robust liquidity profile," and added that it has access to additional liquidity through a EUR1.5 billion credit facility than runs until 2016. "The impact of Standard & Poor's decision on the company is limited," Nokia Chief Financial Officer Timo Ihamuotila said in a statement. Despite receiving favorable reviews, Nokia's new Windows-powered Lumia smartphones haven't sold in great numbers. Statistics released from industry research firm Gartner on Tuesday showed that the Windows Phone operating system ran on less than 3% of smartphones sold in the second quarter. Meanwhile, Nokia's old Symbian operating system for smartphones saw its market share fall to 6% in the second quarter from 22% a year earlier. The Lumia range took a hit in June, when it became apparent that the latest versions of the phone wouldn't be eligible for an upgrade to Microsoft's new Windows 8 software later this year, and in July the price of Nokia's flagship Lumia 900 phone was halved in the critical U.S. market, a little more than three months after its launch. "To defend its market share, we believe that Nokia might lower the price of Lumia phones further in the coming quarters," S&P said. It added that it expects Nokia to launch new models based on the Windows Phone 8 operating system, but said it could "take some time" before this can help stabilize revenue, which S&P expects will decline some 16% to 19% this year. Write to Sven Grundberg at sven.grundberg@dowjones.com Subscribe to WSJ: http://online.wsj.com?mod=djnwires

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