Telecom technology company Ericsson said it expected business in North America to remain slow with operators there saving cash as it reported fourth-quarter sales below expectations today. 

Ericsson has been hit by a slowdown in formerly fast-growing markets in the North America and North Asia. 

Construction there on the latest generation of 4G wireless networks has largely peaked and shifted to capacity upgrades in high-density areas. 

"Business activity slowed further in the quarter as operators remained focused on cash flow optimisation in order to finance major acquisitions and spectrum auctions," Ericsson said of the North American market in a statement.

The company also pointed to growth in the Middle East, Western and Central Europe and South East Asia, but comparable sales for the group dropped by 2%. 

Sales at Ericsson, the world's largest mobile network equipment maker, were 68 billion crowns, below a forecast of 70 billion. 

Revenue at its networks unit, which accounts for just over half of its sales, fell 7% on a like-for-like basis. 

Operating profit was 6.3 billion Swedish crowns ($758m), down from 9.1 billion a year ago but close to a mean forecast of 6.4 billion in a Reuters poll of analysts. 

To mitigate price pressure in the face of fierce competition from its rivals, China's Huawei, Finland's Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson announced it was increasing cost-cutting plans in November, saying it would cut annual costs by a further 9 billion crowns by 2017.  

To this end, Ericsson said today it sees restructuring charges of 3-4 billion crowns in 2015, above the 1.5 billion last year but in line with 2013.