January 29, 2010 / 9:05 AM / 9 years ago

Buoyant Q4 marks recovery of cellphone industry

* Handset market volume grew 10-11 pct y/y in Q4 -analysts

* Samsung, LG, Apple biggest winners

* Motorola, Sony Ericsson lose most

* For a related factbox, please click on [ID:nLDE60Q0GU]

By Tarmo Virki, European technology correspondent

HELSINKI, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Improving economies gave the cellphone market a boost in the December quarter, ending a tough year for the industry marked by flaccid consumer demand.

The world’s two largest cellphone makers — Nokia Oyj NOK1V.HE and Samsung Electronics (005930.KS) — both forecast handset sales volumes would increase around 10 percent in 2010.

“Things are looking brighter ... it’s a very buoyant market,” said analyst Neil Mawston at Strategy Analytics.

“South Korean vendors Samsung and LG again shipped record volumes, while Motorola and Sony Ericsson edged their way back toward profitability,” Mawston added.

LG Electronics (066570.KS) sold 32 percent more phones than a year ago in the quarter, while Samsung sales volumes grew 30 percent and Nokia’s 12 percent to 126.9 million phones.

Apple Inc (AAPL.O) sold 8.7 million iPhones in the quarter, missing analysts forecasts but still sharply up from a year ago as it widened its distribution network.

By contrast, Sony Ericsson (6758.T) (ERICb.ST) and Motorola MOT.N both sold around 40 percent less phones than a year ago as they struggled to revamp ailing product portfolios.

Strategy Analytics estimated the cellphone market grew 10 percent from a year before in the October through December quarter, halting four straight quarters of contraction.

Nokia said the total market grew 8 percent in the December quarter, while research firm IDC estimated on Friday the market growth was 11 percent.

“Economic recovery mixed with pent-up demand will create positive conditions for handset vendors in both developed and emerging markets in 2010,” Ramon Llamas, IDC analyst, said in a statement.

“Meanwhile, key handset vendors expect to exceed their 2009 shipment levels with refreshed portfolios, leveraging interest in touchscreens, messaging devices, and converged mobile devices,” Llamas said. (Editing by David Holmes)

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