On the face of it, BlackBerry Ltd. (BBBY) and Nokia Corp. (NOK) are in equally bad shape, having been marginalized by Samsung, Apple Inc. (AAPL) and a small army of other smartphone companies. However, the market views the two troubled companies very differently, probably because Nokia has products for the lower end of the market and BlackBerry does not.
So far this year, BlackBerry's shares are off 20%, while Nokia's are 5% higher.
BlackBerry has been unable to show any sort of turnaround. Its new flagship BlackBerry 10 has not been a success. Although BlackBerry's sales increased marginally in the most recent quarter, compared to the one just before it, to $3.1 billion, gross margins fell to 33.9% from 40.1%. BlackBerry's net loss for the most recent quarter was $84 million. And BlackBerry management knows so little about its future that it did not provide solid guidance for the balance of the year.
In Nokia's most recent quarter, revenue dropped 3%, compared to the immediately prior quarter, settling at 5.7 billion euros. Operating profit was a very modest 328 million euros.
Nokia has a line of cheap handsets, mostly aimed at the developing world. These cellphones are profitable. They are something -- perhaps the only thing -- for Nokia to lean on as it tries desperately to break into the smartphone industry. According to CNNMoney:
To be sure, the Nokia 105 is as basic as cell phones get. It can't surf the web, it has no app store, and it doesn't even have a camera. But $20 for a phone that can make calls, send text messages and features a color screen is an incredibly good deal.
What's more incredible is that the Finland-based company profits $5.80 from the sale of each phone, almost a 30% margin, according to an IHS analysis. Materials and manufacturing costs the company just $14.20 per device.
BlackBerry has no such product. (Neither does Apple.)
Nokia has held on to part of its roots -- the ability to create a downscale cellphone. For the time being, it is the company's salvation, whether or not its management wants to brag about it.