Jan 30 - Mobile telecom gear maker Ericsson posted sales and fourth-quarter operating profit below expectations. In an interview with Reuters, the company's CEO, Hans Vestberg said network projects in China and Russia had not compensated for lower sales in North America and Japan. Hayley Platt reports.
2013 ended on a sour note for Ericsson. It's fourth quarter operating profits came in below expectations. And network sales were down 1 percent from the previous year. The Swedish mobile telecom equipment maker blamed lower activity in North America and Japan. But Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg remains upbeat. SOUNDBITE: Hans Vestberg, CEO, Ericsson, saying (English): "You have technology shifting in many markets some are going into 4G so they're spending a lot, others have come out of the 4G cycle and they're buying more capacity and that will always happen in different cycles." Ericsson's earnings before tax and interest were nearly double last year's at $1.4 billion. A patent deal with Samsung boosted sales and profits. And its biggest client Vodafone is planning to spend 7 billion pounds with them to increase its networks. Sales of high-speed 4G networks should also grow in 2014 - as consumers watch more video on their smartphones. SOUNDBITE: Hans Vestberg, CEO, Ericsson, saying (English): "There are three markets in the lead on 4G, it's U.S., Korea and Japan when it comes to subscribers. Now of course the rest of the world coming in. China of course a large market also coming in. We have been selected as a vendor, so we are going to be part of the 4G technology, deployment in China going forward." There have been reports Vestberg would be leaving Ericsson. He's been named as one of the candidates for Steve Ballmer's top job at Microsoft. But one media report says he has told directors he has no plans to step down.