RIM shares rise on hopes of Samsung licensing deal

TORONTO Wed Aug 8, 2012 1:07pm EDT

The exterior of one of the Research In Motion Limited (RIM) buildings is seen in Waterloo July 10, 2012. REUTERS/ Mike Cassese

The exterior of one of the Research In Motion Limited (RIM) buildings is seen in Waterloo July 10, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/ Mike Cassese

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TORONTO (Reuters) - Shares of Research In Motion RIM.TO RIMM.O rose more than 5 percent early on Wednesday after an influential analyst said the embattled BlackBerry maker may look to license its new operating system to Samsung Electronics Co (005930.KS).

Jefferies & Co analyst Peter Misek said RIM's strategic review process, begun earlier this year, would likely result in the Canadian company concluding that it needs to license BlackBerry 10, the operating system it is now developing.

"Given recent management comments in the press, it now appears that RIM is realizing what Wall Street has been saying for some time: they are a subscale manufacturer and desperately need a partner," Misek wrote in a research note on Tuesday.

"We believe RIM is attempting to revive discussions with Samsung regarding a BB10 licensing deal."

The system, known as BB10, will run a next-generation line of BlackBerrys expected to launch early next year.

It is considered RIM's last hope of reversing BlackBerry's steady decline in market share to Apple Inc's (AAPL.O) iPhone and devices running on Google Inc's (GOOG.O) Android operating system.

South Korea's Samsung - the world's largest smartphone maker - is one the largest sellers of phones that run on Android.

FEELING VULNERABLE

Misek wrote that Samsung may feel vulnerable even with handset business thriving, concerned that companies that build operating systems for its phones, including Google and Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O), might begin to produce devices of their own.

"Among other options, we believe Samsung is considering ramping up its internal operating system development efforts, licensing BB10, or buying RIM," said Misek adding that any bid for RIM was unlikely until after the BB10 launch.

"While Samsung is currently riding high and dominating smartphones along with Apple, we believe Samsung recognizes its vulnerability in coming years," said Misek. "RIM, Nokia, and Motorola provide stern warnings that any high-flying mobile phone company can crash in a two-year period."

Speculation about a licensing deal with Samsung helped boost RIM shares 5.1 percent to $7.68 at midday on the Nasdaq, and its Toronto-listed shares were up 4.5 percent at C$7.65.

The stock has tumbled more than 80 percent since the beginning of 2011, when Apple and other smartphone makers started to widen their lead on RIM, which once dominated the business.

Such speculation had surfaced early this year but it cooled after the Korean company insisted it had no plans to license RIM's operating system.

Last month, Samsung reported a record operating profit of $5.9 billion for the June quarter, as rampant Galaxy S handset sales helped stretch its lead over Apple. The mobile business brings in around 60 percent of Samsung's earnings.

Earlier this year Samsung ended Nokia's (NOK1V.HE) 14-year reign as the world's top global handset maker. Its smartphone shipments increased to an estimated 50.5 million in the June quarter, nearly double the 26 million iPhones sold.

Apple shipments fell 26 percent in the June quarter from the previous three months as the European economy sagged and consumers held off on buying ahead of the release of the iPhone 5.

RIM EXPECTED TO SLIDE FURTHER

Misek warned that RIM's smartphone sales volumes are likely to deteriorate further. He expects the Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM to ship about 6.5 million handsets in the current quarter.

Data released by IDC, or International Data Corp, on Wednesday backed this view. The firm estimates that Android and Apple's iOS powered 85 percent of all devices shipped in the second quarter of 2012.

The gains come as RIM's BlackBerry devices and Nokia's Symbian-based devices continued to lose ground to the market leaders. BlackBerry and Symbian devices accounted for just 4.8 percent and 4.4 percent of shipments, respectively, according to IDC.

(Editing by Frank McGurty)

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