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Credit Suisse sees sluggish growth in 2012 handset sales

(Reuters) - Global mobile phone shipments is likely to grow at a much slower pace of 2 percent this year as customers hold back on new phone purchases, Credit Suisse said.

The brokerage's estimate for the year is marginally higher than its previous forecast but is a far cry from the 12 percent it has projected for 2011.

Credit Suisse analysts, including Kulbinder Garcha, expect sales of 1.85 billion handsets in 2012, up from their forecast of 1.82 billion for 2011.

Garcha is a three-star rated analyst for the accuracy of his earnings estimates on the companies under his coverage, according to Thomson Reuters' StarMine data. For Nokia, Garcha is rated five stars and ranks second among 41 analysts covering the stock.

Credit Suisse, however, maintained its outlook for smartphone sales -- the only bright spot in a weak technology market.

It said smartphone sales were on track to reach annual shipments of over 1 billion by 2015, eventually accounting for nearly 80 percent of handset industry revenue.

The brokerage upgraded Nokia Oyj to "outperform" from "underperform," saying the Finnish handset-maker will start to realize the benefits of transition to Windows Phone from Symbian from the second half of this year.

In October, the ailing cellphone maker unveiled two new Microsoft Windows phones, a first step in its fightback against Apple and Google.

(Reporting by Ashutosh Pandey in Bangalore; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

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