January 31, 2019 / 6:41 AM / 6 months ago

UPDATE 1-Nokia sees fast shift to 5G ahead after strong Q4

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HELSINKI, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Telecom network equipment maker Nokia forecast stronger-than-expected 2019 and 2020 results thanks to fast-rising investments in 5G networks, after beating fourth-quarter sales and profit estimates on Thursday.

“Over the longer-term, we expect a virtuous cycle of investment, where operators update their networks across multiple domains,” Nokia’s chief executive Rajeev Suri said in a statement.

The networks industry - dominated by Nokia, Sweden’s Ericsson and China’s Huawei - has been battered by years of slowing demand since 4G network sales peaked in the middle of the decade. It is now readying for a new cycle of network upgrades, which appear to be kicking in as demand for 5G services increases.

Nokia said its operating profit (non-IFRS) rose 12 percent year-on-year to 1.12 billion euros ($1.29 billion) in the fourth quarter. That was above analysts’ expectations of 1.056 billion in a Reuters poll, boosted by its software and enterprise businesses.

The company forecast 2019 earnings per share of 0.25-0.29 euros, above analysts’ estimate, while also forecasting 2020 EPS of 0.37-0.42 euros.

$1 = 0.8693 euros Reporting by Anne Kauranen, Tarmo Virki in Helsinki and Michael Kahn in Prague, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips & Kim Coghill

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