* Report cites disagreements over MeeGo
* Company confirms his leave, no comment on details
* CEO says Nokia is not for sale
* S&P cuts rating, places on negative outlook
(Changes headline, adds analyst's comment)
By Ritsuko Ando
HELSINKI, June 9 Nokia NOK1V.HE said its chief
technology officer had taken a leave of absence and a Finnish
newspaper said he was unlikely to return due to disagreements on
strategy, a fresh blow for the struggling mobile phone company.
The Helsingin Sanomat quoted unnamed sources saying Richard
Green was unhappy with management decisions such as abandoning
the "MeeGo" operating system it was developing with Intel in
favour of going with Microsoft's Windows Phone software.
Nokia confirmed Green had taken leave for personal matters
and declined to comment on when he would return or on other
details. Henry Tirri, head of Nokia Research Center, will be the
acting CTO, a spokesman said.
The move comes as Nokia's once-undisputed leadership in
mobile phones crumbles. The company is losing smartphone market
share to Apple Inc's (AAPL.O) iPhone and Google Inc's (GOOG.O)
Android devices and, at the low end, to cheaper Asian rivals.
Nokia's falling share price has triggered speculation it may
be a takeover target, but bankers say Nokia is far from
attracting real suitors due to scepticism about its recovery.
Chief Executive Stephen Elop said on Thursday the rumours
were "baseless" and the company was not for sale. [ID:nWLB6016]
Nokia is switching to Microsoft's Windows Phone software
from its own Symbian platform later this year, as part of an
overhaul of its phone business set out by Elop four months ago.
Elop's strategy transforms the company from a phone firm
providing software and services to one which must focus on
delivering the best possible hardware on which to run
Microsoft's platform: a change of identity which investors are
still absorbing even as they contemplate Microsoft's unproven
Windows Phone platform.
Many analysts believe Nokia is losing market share so fast
it may never recover. The company last week warned that
second-quarter mobile phone sales would be substantially below a
previous forecast. It also abandoned its full-year outlook,
blaming tough competition in China and Europe.
"We will probably see more of these negative news for Nokia
in the coming weeks. All the effects caused by the profit
warning have not yet come through," said Nordea analyst Sami
Sarkamies, adding that the report was no surprise.
On Thursday S&P cut its debt rating for Nokia to 'BBB+/A-2'
and placed the company on CreditWatch with negative
implications. That followed the decision by Fitch ratings agency
on Tuesday to cut its rating on Nokia's bonds on Tuesday to
'BBB-' -- one notch above junk grade.
Fitch also set a negative outlook, saying consumers appear
to be deserting its legacy handsets.
"I think that this ... will confirm to the most sceptical
people that Nokia can never make a turnaround," John Strand,
head of Strand Consult, said on Thursday. "The victim here is
again the shareholder."
The handset maker's equity value has halved to 17 billion
euros ($24.91 billion) since the leak in February of Elop's memo
comparing Nokia to a man standing on a burning oil platform.
At 0941 GMT Nokia shares were up 0.2 percent at 4.30 euros.
(Reporting by Helsinki Newsroom; Editing by Sophie Walker)