Why do so many people want to speculate in Nokia (NOK)? I find this phenomenon of believing that a low-dollar stock could represent great value to be one of the classic illusions of the investing game.
Put simply, Nokia is a deeply troubled company. It has repeatedly restructured. It has repeatedly told us that this iteration or that iteration of the smartphone is going to make the big difference.
Nothing has made the big difference. Now, I don't want to be binary here. On "Squawk on the Street" I alluded to shooting Nokia like they shoot tired horses. But that doesn't mean Nokia can't bleed ever so slightly on a relatively constant basis. Nokia may not be going out of business. But perhaps it needs to continue to go down as it bleeds share to others. Think something like Sprint Nextel (S) more than something like Eastman Kodak. Think something like Research In Motion (RIMM), not something like Nortel.
Remember, though, that this is a $16 billion company, and ask yourself if it were to do a reverse 10-for-1 split whether you would want to own it.
What's going on with Nokia? I think it is a victim of what has emerged as a two-horse race between Samsung and Apple (AAPL). It's awfully hard to crack back into the lineup, particularly when there is no ecosystem similar to what Apple offers. It is the ecosystem I keep coming back to, the universal nature of interlocking Apple pieces. It's so powerful, and I think it is going to get even more powerful if Apple develops an iTV where you can speak to it, or speak to a remote iPad, and it puts on what you want, rather than have to dial around to find it with one of several remotes. You say, "Mute the ads," and it mutes them. Can you imagine? -- not that those of us in TV ever want that to come to pass.
What does Nokia have to fight against that? A Microsoft (MSFT) operating system that's linked to Windows 8 in some form that is irrelevant to the user?
Worse, Nokia alluded on its conference call that the Chinese operators are adopting a U.S.-carrier-style subsidy approach to new sign-ups. That bodes particularly badly for Nokia, because its phones are cheap, and there's no need to subsidize them, but there is a very big need to subsidize Apple's more expensive handsets.
To me, trying to bottom-fish in Nokia makes little sense. Ask all of the other people who have tried to date. They have nothing, nothing at all, to show for it. Right now, the name Nokia still stands for a company. I fear that one day soon it will stand, again, for the river it is named after. A sorry state of affairs indeed.