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HELSINKI, April 26 (Reuters) - Network equipment maker Nokia on Thursday posted weaker-than-expected quarterly profits as telecom operators, particularly in North America, held off spending, but it expressed confidence that momentum was building later in 2018.
The Finnish company, which competes with Sweden's Ericsson , Huawei and ZTE, both of China, said the battered network industry was poised to bounce back as commercial deployments for next-generation 5G networks would start to take off later this year.
"We see strong momentum building for the full year despite a slow start in networks... We have clear visibility to 5G deals for large-scale commercial rollouts in United States in the second half of the year," CEO Rajeev Suri said in a statement.
First-quarter group earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) fell 30 percent from a year ago to 239 million euros ($291 million), clearly below analysts' average forecast of 369 million euros in a Reuters poll.
Most of the profit was generated by the company's profitable patent licensing business, which grew 136 percent.
Nokia said it expected the global networks industry to fall 1-3 percent this year, a slight improvement from its previous forecast of a fall of 2-4 percent, and added its own sales would outperform the wider telecom equipment market. ($1 = 0.8214 euros) (Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl, editing by Eric Auchard)