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Are Nokia and RIM Headed for Ruin?

Breakout

In an announcement falling somewhere between a suicide note and an expression of optimism for the future Finnish cell-phone has-been, Nokia (NOK) announced yesterday that it would be laying off 10,000 employees between now and the end of 2013. Obviously the negative part was the plan to lay-off nearly 20% of its existing work-force. The upside was that Nokia seems to truly believe the company will exist as a freestanding concern in 18 months.

Unwilling to see the glass as anything but half-empty, Wall Street sent NOK shares down 16% Wednesday. Nokia shareholders should be used to such pain by now, the stock is down over 50% just in 2012 and a stunning 91% since the release of Apple's (AAPL) iPhone.

Nokia's not alone in its suffering. Fellow fallen idol Research-in-Motion (RIMM) also warned recently, citing... well, let's be honest, it doesn't matter what RIMM cited. The company is in trouble and there seems little on the horizon likely to stop the decline.

The question for those inclined towards catching falling knives is whether or not NOK and RIMM have finally reached the point at which the intrinsic value of their assets exceeds the value of their shares. In other words, are either Nokia or RIMM "value buys." To explore the idea Breakout welcomed Jon Najarian, kingpin of OptionMonster.com and former RIMM shareholder.

To say Najarian is a former "shareholder" of RIMM is actually a wild overstatement. What the former options pit trader actually did was trade RIMM at the beginning of 2012, buying in the teens with the idea that the company could be a potential take over candidate in the low 20's. The stock popped, Najarian sold and RIMM has dropped like a stone ever since, falling nearly 30% in since January 1 and a mind-blowing 70% over the last year.

As Najarian would be the first to tell you, a little luck never hurts when trading. He would still consider both Nokia and RIMM as part of a "fallen angel" basket, but not in much size. Both companies have large patent portfolios, a fact that makes them compelling to would-be buyers. The problem with that as an investment thesis is that Nokia and Research in Motion seem determined to continue operations, reducing their cash flows and delaying any sale. Like boxers and and an opened can of soda, patent portfolios don't become more valuable with the passage of time.

For those inclined to play, Najarian suggests owning the common but writing call options aggressively against the position.

It's not a stirring vote of confidence but it's about as bullish a view as you're likely to hear about RIMM or NOK from anyone on Wall Street. A never-ending series of profit warnings tends to shake the confidence of even the most bullish analysts.

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