Rajeev Suri, the chief executive of Nokia, is stepping down from his leadership role after overseeing the Finnish networking giant for more than half a decade. Pekka Lundmark, the outgoing President and CEO of energy firm Fortum, has been elected as the President and Chief Executive Officer of Nokia, the Finnish company announced on Monday.
The networking giant said Suri had expressed his intention to step down from the role and that they have been working to formulate a smooth transition. “After 25 years at Nokia, I have wanted to do something different,” said Suri, who will leave his current position on August 31 and continue to serve as an advisor to the Nokia Board until January 1 next year. Lundmark is expected to start in his new role on September 1 this year.
The announcement comes days after Bloomberg News reported that Nokia was exploring a range of strategic options including selling portions of its business assets to potential merger deals.
“Nokia will always be part of me, and I want to thank everyone that I have worked with over the years for helping make Nokia a better place and me a better leader. I leave the company with a belief that a return to better performance is on the horizon and with pride for what we have accomplished over time. Pekka is an excellent choice for Nokia. I look forward to working with him on a smooth transition and wish him the best success in his new role,” said Suri, in a statement.
The company, like its rivals Sweden-based Ericsson and Chinese giant Huawei, has shifted its attention in recent years to aggressively build a portfolio of technologies and products for 5G networks. But some analysts have argued that Nokia’s move to buy Alcatel-Lucent, maker of telecom equipments, for $16.6 billion in 2015 distracted it from becoming the market leader for 5G products and technologies.
“With the acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent behind us and the world of 5G in front of us, I am pleased that Pekka has agreed to join Nokia,” said Risto Siilasmaa, Nokia Board Chair, in a statement. Siilasmaa will step down at the company’s annual meeting in April.
Nokia’s Technology unit, which manages the company’s patent portfolio, reported 3% growth in its operating profit to 1.24 billion euros ($1.35 billion) in 2019, while its sales slipped 1% to 1.49 billion euros. Under Suri, Nokia’s shares have fallen by more than a third.
The company’s future prospects received a boost last month, however, after U.S. Attorney General William Barr urged the nation and its allies to consider investing in Nokia and Ericsson to counter Huawei’s dominance in 5G technology, fueling speculation of merger and acquisition activities.
The company’s board said in Lundmark, it is getting a leader who has “consistently delivered robust total shareholder returns, successfully renewed the company’s strategy, and positioned it to be a strong player in the transforming global energy sector.”
In a statement, he said, “together we can create shareholder value by delivering on Nokia’s mission to create the technology to connect the world. I am confident that the company is well-positioned for the 5G era and it is my goal to ensure that we meet our commitments to our customers, employees, shareholders and other stakeholders.”