Sari Baldauf took over as chairwoman of telecoms equipment maker Nokia on Wednesday, succeeding Risto Siilasmaa who chaired the Finnish firm for eight years.
Sari Baldauf, 64, one of the most high-profile female executives in the global telecoms industry, is facing a tough task to fight back in 5G race, where rivals Ericsson and Huawei are putting pressure on its sales and cash reserves.
Sari Baldauf is the last remaining executive from former chairman and CEO Jorma Ollila’s team which in the late 1990s built a Finnish company with a tiny tech unit into the world’s biggest cellphone maker.
Nokia in October cut its outlook for this year and next because of the need to step up its investments.
It also suspended dividend payments to conserve cash and pledged to speed up the introduction of new 5G chipsets.
Sari Baldauf headed Nokia’s networks unit – now the company’s main business – between 1998 and 2005. She has sat on Nokia’s board of directors since last year and has also sat on the boards of companies including Daimler, Deutsche Telekom and Akzo Nobel and Finnish utility Fortum.
“I think it is a hugely positive move to see a woman take such an important role in such a prestigious business,” said Ben Wood, head of research at UK-based tech consultancy CCS Insight. Wood has followed Nokia for nearly 20 years.
Earlier, Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri had also announced his resignation from the telecom network maker. Pekka Lundmark is the new president and CEO of Nokia. Rajeev Suri will step down after more than a decade as president and CEO of Nokia and Nokia Siemens Networks.
“Nokia is going back to the future. The recent profit warning, dividend cut and 5G lag have rattled the company,” said Neil Mawston, director at research firm Strategy Analytics, recently.
“Huawei and Ericsson have arguably inched ahead on R&D, and Nokia is feeling the business pressure. Nokia is turning to the old “dream team” for help,” Mawston said.
Risto Siilasmaa, 53, played a central role in revamping Nokia from cellphone maker with a network arm into a top three telecom equipment maker globally.
Nokia was wrong-footed in waiting for 5G radio standards to come into force late last year, while rivals were quicker to revamp products in anticipation of early rollouts in the United States and South Korea, Reuters reported.