* Says to remain conservative in vendor financing
* Says to take Symbian software to mid-tier phones
* Shares down 2.3 pct (Adds CEO comment, shares)
By Tarmo Virki, European technology correspondent
HELSINKI, April 23 (Reuters) - Nokia NOK1V.HE, the world’s biggest maker of cellphones, said on Thursday it was too early to say whether demand for handsets has bottomed out.
The cellphone market is facing its toughest year ever in 2009 as the economic downturn saps demand for new phones.
“So far it is too early to estimate whether in our sector we have seen the demand for mobile devices reaching the bottom, and when this bottom would possibly be reached,” Chief Executive Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo told the annual shareholders meeting.
Last week, Nokia reported a 27 percent fall in January-March sales and its first-ever quarterly pretax loss while repeating its forecast for cellphone market volumes to decline by around 10 percent in 2009. [ID:nLG183354]
Kallasvuo said the company has seen quite a lot of financing requests from handset retailers and telecom operators, but Nokia has stuck to a conservative policy towards financing customers.
“And we will remain conservative,” Kallasvuo said.
Kallasvuo also said Nokia aims to take the Symbian operating system — currently used in smartphones — into lower-priced phones.
“Expanding Symbian into lower price points is the right thing to do. We see this as a tremendous opportunity to increase efficiency, to get more scale for Symbian, and gain market share,” Kallasvuo said.
Shares in Nokia were 2.3 percent lower on the Helsinki bourse at 11.22 euros at 1523 GMT, underperforming a 0.3 percent dip in the DJ Stoxx European technology index .SX8P.
Separately Moody’s said it revised to its outlook for Nokia debt to negative from stable. (Reporting by Tarmo Virki; Editing by Greg Mahlich and Elaine Hardcastle)