Nokia veteran Sari Baldauf takes over as 5G battle rages

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HELSINKI (Reuters) – Sari Baldauf took over as chairwoman of telecoms equipment maker Nokia (NOKIA.HE) on Wednesday, succeeding Risto Siilasmaa who chaired the Finnish firm for eight years.

FILE PHOTO: Visitors gather outside the Nokia booth at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, February 26, 2019. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

Baldauf, one of the most high-profile female executives in the global telecoms industry, faces a tough task to fight back in the 5G race, as rivals Ericsson (ERICb.ST) and Huawei put pressure on its sales and cash reserves.

Nokia, which axed its dividend after a profit warning last October, has been trying to tackle costs and shipment delays.

In a video address to shareholders for the company’s annual general meeting, Siilasmaa applauded Baldauf’s “wealth of experience” and gave assurances that she would focus on improving financial results.

Outgoing Chief Executive Rajeev Suri, who will hand over to Pekka Lundmark in September, said the company will emerge from the coronavirus crisis stronger than before, and had a strengthened supply chain with 25 factories around the globe.

Nokia has been hampered by delays in its system-on-chip (SoC) development – an entire computer system on a single chip which allows the company to cut costs.

Suri said the integration of former French-American rival Alcatel-Lucent, which Nokia acquired for 15.6 billion euros ($17.17 billion) in 2016, had not been easy but was now complete, both operationally and culturally.

“At the same time, the 5G market timeline accelerated…we had to accelerate our development efforts and this did not happen without challenges,” Suri said.

Baldauf, 64, rejoined the Nokia board in 2018, having already been a member between 1994 and 2005.

She is the last remaining executive from former chairman and CEO Jorma Ollila’s team, which in the late 1990s turned a Finnish company with a tiny tech unit into the world’s biggest cellphone maker.

($1 = 0.9088 euros)

Reporting by Tarmo Virki, Anne Kauranen and Supantha Mukherjee; editing by David Evans, Barbara Lewis, Kirsten Donovan

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