BlackBerry delay darkens RIM's future
TORONTO (Reuters) - A months-long delay in Research in Motion's new BlackBerrys and a dreary quarterly report sent RIM shares tumbling again on Friday and pushed some analysts to sound the death knell for the mobile device that once defined the industry.
RIM's announcement late Thursday that it expected to launch smartphones powered by its new QNX operating system months after initially expected revived calls for the ouster of RIM's co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie.
The delay, combined with a dismal performance outlook issued along with the quarterly results, sparked renewed chatter about the break-up of the Canadian tech giant, which has floundered as nimbler competitors claw away at its market share.
"RIM confirmed the BlackBerry 10 smartphones will be delayed until the latter part of calendar 2012. This could be game over for the BlackBerry franchise," analysts at Canadian brokerage National Bank Financial wrote in a note to clients. BlackBerry 10 is the name the company has given to the QNX phones, which RIM had initially expected to deliver in the first quarter.
On Friday, the delay spurred several brokerage firms to cut their price targets and ratings on RIM shares and sent the Waterloo, Ontario-based company's shares tumbling more than 12 percent on Friday.
"We see a high risk that this is too late to turn around RIM's position and believe the risk of further delays is meaningful," Nomura analyst Stuart Jeffrey said in a research note. "Even in the best case, however, it seems unlikely RIM will have large volumes of its BB10 devices on sale within 15 months."
RIM has been counting on the new QNX operating system to make up ground lost to Apple Inc's iPhone and iPad and the slew of devices that use Google Inc's Android software. The delay portends another long year of transition for RIM, allowing rivals to make further in-roads into RIM's market share.
RIM on Thursday also provided a gloomy outlook for earning as sales of an interim line of legacy BlackBerry 7 smartphones lag during the crucial holiday season. Even if shipments hit the high-end of RIM's expectations during Christmas, the company will still post the first annual decline in its history.
The constant stream of bad news from RIM over the last year has driven its shares to their lowest since early 2004, and it has led to analyst and investor demands for Balsillie and Lazaridis to step down.
"RIM reminds me of a beloved grandparent. You love them, but they are very outdated and sooner or later they will be gone," said independent analyst Jeff Kagan in an email.
"Either the existing CEOs must update their thinking or bring in a new CEO to lead the company out of the darkness and back into the sunshine before it is too late."
PRICE TARGET CUTS
Canaccord Genuity cut its price target on RIM's U.S.-listed shares to $15 from $18, citing the delay in the launch of BlackBerry 10 and the company's plans to spend more on sales and marketing to help sustain interim sales.
Barclays shared similar concerns about the company's projected investments in marketing and loyalty programs to regain "mind" share.
"Benefits of the investments are not guaranteed but are likely to keep RIM's operating margins at sustainably lower levels through 2012 and 2013," Barclays said.
Barclay's cut it price target on RIM's U.S.-listed shares to $14 from $16; Citigroup reduced it price target to $12 from $15, and National Bank Financial dropped its price target to $8 from $10.
Research in Motion shares, which have lost almost half their value in the last three months, fell 11.2 percent to $13.44 Friday afternoon on the Nasdaq. The Toronto-listed shares fell 12.1 percent to C$13.89.
(Reporting By Euan Rocha in Toronto and Ashutosh Pandey in Bangalore; Editing by Frank McGurty)