IDC sees single-digit handset market growth in '08

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Market researcher IDC expects growth in the global market for mobile phones to slow to single digits from this year onwards after unit sales rose 11.6 percent last quarter, it said in a statement on Friday.

Despite slowing growth, more than 300 million handsets were sold in the fourth quarter -- which includes the Christmas holiday season, when sales are traditionally strong -- a record for any single three-month period, IDC said.

“Over the last three years, growth in the industry during the holiday quarter has fluctuated from 18.0 percent to 30.0 percent, and this past quarter we saw it drop to 11.6 percent,” IDS senior analyst Ryan Reith said in the statement.

“The expectation that the market would maintain the level of growth it saw over the last three years was unrealistic. We expect growth to be in the single digits throughout 2008, and most likely for years to follow.”

During 2007, 1.144 billion cell phones were sold worldwide, 12.4 percent more than a year earlier.

Last year saw Samsung 005930.KS overtake Motorola MOT.N to become world No.2 behind Nokia NOK1V.HE. Samsung grew almost four times as fast as the market, thanks to high-end replacement models for the United States and Europe, IDC said.

Motorola spent much of the year addressing inventory issues in Europe and Asia. “Now that Motorola is implementing a new handset strategy, it will be interesting to watch the hotly contested number two position in 2008,” IDC said.

Nokia on Thursday reported fourth-quarter handset shipments that were higher than the combined total of its closest three competitors, Samsung, Motorola and Sony Ericsson 6758.TERICb.ST.

The company produced 1.5 million phones per day on average and said it could have manufactured even more had it not been for component shortages.

IDC put Nokia's fourth-quarter market share at 40.0 percent, Samsung's at 13.9 percent, Motorola's at 12.2 percent, Sony Ericsson's at 9.2 percent and fifth-placed LG Electronics' 066570.KS at 7.1 percent.

Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Louise Ireland