Erik Bertman

Nokia Appoints A New Lead In China As It Seeks To Reverse Its Declining Sales In That Country

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Nokia’s newly-appointed general manager of China, Erik Bertman, has plenty of experience in emerging markets, but it’s unclear if he’ll be able to reverse the Finnish company’s rapid loss of market share in the world’s largest smartphone market.

Bertman will takeover the position on June 1. He succeeds Gustavo Eichelmann, who is leaving Nokia and returning to the U.K. for personal reasons, according to the company. In a statement, Nokia said Bertman was appointed to lead operations in China because “he has achieved good results in a number of important markets” and has experience leading cross-cultural teams.

Originally from Sweden, Bertman previously served as the regional lead of Nokia Russia, where he oversaw sales and marketing. His experience with the company also includes a stint as financial officer in the sub-Saharan Africa region. Bertman arrived in China in 2009.

Despite his experience in emerging markets, Bertman has a lot of work to do if he wants to turn around Nokia’s fortunes in China. The company’s market share in that country underwent a dramatic decline in 2012 as it failed to weather competition from Samsung.

The Finnish company slipped to number seven in overall sales in 2012, with 3.7 percent market share, compared to the 29.9 percent chunk it held in 2011, according to Strategy Analytics. It’s rapid descent was mirrored by Samsung’s quick rise to the top–the Korean tech giant nearly tripled its China sales in 2012, selling 30.06 million smartphones, up from 10.9 million handsets a year earlier. Samsung now holds a 17.7 percent market share in China.

Furthermore, Nokia has had three people leading its China operations in as many years: Deng Yuan-yun, Liang Yu-mei and Eichelmann. The position’s rotating door may be a sign that the company is unsure of its strategy in that region.

A turnaround in emerging markets is crucial for Nokia’s survival because North America has been the company’s weakest market for sometime. Last month, Nokia reported $334 million in sales in Greater China, down 56 percent from a year ago, a figure that puts it just above North America in terms of market size for the company.

Nokia’s dramatic decline in China comes despite its efforts to hold on to its former dominance in the market with low-cost the launch of the Nokia Lumia 800C in March 2012. The device was the first CDMA Windows Phone in the country, but it failed to gain enough traction to compete against inexpensive Android handsets.