HELSINKI, Finland (AP) _ Nokia Corp., the world's largest cell phone maker, on Thursday raised its estimate for growth in worldwide mobile device sales this year to 915 million, or 15 percent over 2005, saying most of the increase will be in the emerging markets of Asia and Africa.
The Finnish company had earlier predicted a 10 percent global increase in mobile handsets from an estimated 795 million units in 2005. It did not forecast its own growth or sales for the rest of the year.
Separately, Nokia announced the launch of three low-priced handsets in China, in a bid to win new phone users in Asia.
Chief Executive Jorma Ollila said the company was ``well placed for some new innovative leaps,'' but did not give details.
``There is huge diversity between geographic areas and markets in terms of consumer preferences and behavior,'' Ollila said, adding that 80 percent of total growth will be in emerging markets, with mobile phone subscribers reaching 3 billion in 2008.
``In addition to continuous growth in voice communication, other industries like music and digital imaging are quickly becoming more integral to mobility,'' Ollila told the company's annual general meeting in Helsinki.
Markets welcomed Nokia's announcements, sending its stock price up 4.8 percent in Helsinki to close at euro17.49 (US$21.15).
The company's three new models _ Nokia 1112, Nokia 2310 and Nokia 2610 _ are expected to retail for euro45 to euro75 (US$54-US$90), and will be available in the second half of the year, Nokia said. The handsets will be easy-to-use and reliable to attract first-time users, it added.
Nokia, which claims to be the market leader in China and India, has increasingly turned its attention to Asia from Europe, where mobile phone levels are reaching saturation point.
Last year, China became Nokia's largest single market _ overtaking the United States _ with net sales growing 28 percent to euro3.4 billion (US$4 billion).
Earlier this month, Nokia announced co-operation with Baidu.com Inc., a leading Chinese-language Internet search provider, to make mobile search easier and more convenient in Chinese-speaking markets, including Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Nokia is based in Espoo, just outside the Finnish capital. It has sales in 130 countries and 59,000 employees.