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Nokia beats earnings estimates, splits stock

The cell phone maker reports that earnings climbed 45 percent and announces a 4-for-1 stock split.

Nokia, the giant cell phone maker, today reported that fourth-quarter earnings climbed 45 percent, exceeding analysts' expectations as the sales of its cellular products outstripped its competitors.

The company, whose shares more than tripled last year, also announced a 4-for-1 stock split. Nokia again beat earnings estimates for more than three years straight.

Nokia's strong earnings and news of its stock split helped boost rival cellular phone makers, including Qualcomm and Ericsson, in pre-market trading.

Nokia's net income for the period was 853 million euros ($827 million), or 0.74 euros per share, on net sales of 6.4 billion euros. That compares with earnings of 585 million euros, or 0.51 euros per share, on net sales of 4.4 billion euros in the same period in 1998.

Analysts expected Nokia to earn 0.69 euros (67 cents) per share, according to a First Call survey of 17 analysts.

The company said that sales of its mobile phones broke Nokia's previous sales volume records, as high demand continued in all major markets.

The earnings report was issued before the opening of the markets. In pre-market trading, shares of Nokia climbed to $188, $3 higher than yesterday's closing. Ericsson stock added $1.19 to $75.75 in Instinet trading. Qualcomm stock climbed to $132.5 in pre-market trading after closing yesterday at $127, driven higher in part by news that it has reached a preliminary agreement to supply wireless technology to China.

Nokia chief executive officer Jorma Ollila attributed the company's strong quarter to its continued competitive position and wide, popular product portfolio, as well as efficient global marketing and distribution operations.

"Continued strong growth and excellent profits in the last quarter drove another year of record performance," Ollila said in a statement. "We strengthened our No. 1 market position in handsets and have every reason to be pleased with our performance."