* Wall Street Journal says company could cut 40 pct of staff
* BlackBerry declines to confirm report
* Z30 launched on Wednesday, boasts five-inch touchscreen
* Z30 to hit UK, Mideast store shelves as early as next week
By Euan Rocha
TORONTO, Sept 18 BlackBerry Ltd
plans to slash thousands of jobs by the end of the year, the
Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, just as the company
launches a flagship smartphone intended to revive its fortunes.
Citing unnamed people familiar with the matter, the article
said BlackBerry could cut up to 40 percent of its staff and the
layoffs will happen across job functions and likely occur in
Blackberry, which once dominated the corporate smartphone
arena, has struggled in recent years to staunch loss of market
share to such rivals as Apple Inc and Samsung
Electronics Co Ltd.
The company, which previously warned that job cuts were in
the offing, declined to comment on the Journal's report or the
magnitude of potential layoffs. It employed 12,700 people as of
March, and once had almost 20,000 employees.
"We will not comment on rumors and speculation," said
BlackBerry spokesman Adam Emery. "We are in the second phase of
our transformation plan. Organizational moves will continue to
occur to ensure we have the right people in the right roles to
drive new opportunities."
The report comes on the same day the Canadian company
introduced the "Z30," a top-of-the-line smartphone intended to
help the one-time industry pioneer wrestle its way back into the
intensely competitive smartphone market.
Investors have grown increasingly nervous about BlackBerry's
future as its market position crumbles. The company said last
month it was weighing options that could include an outright
sale, in the face of persistently lackluster sales of devices
that run on the BlackBerry 10 operating system.
"Clearly the game is over for them, though it's coming a
little quicker than I expected," said Charter Equity analyst
Edward Snyder. "Cutting half your staff, that's pretty much the
end for them."
Snyder said the cuts illustrate BlackBerry's slipping
financial and market position, and that a sale is now the best
option as the industry is uninterested in new BlackBerry
"You can put out the most amazing phone in the world, and it
wouldn't matter," he said.
The long-rumored Z30 device, unveiled at an event in Kuala
Lumpur, Malaysia, will take the crown as BlackBerry's
highest-end device from the smaller Z10, launched earlier this
The touchscreen device, which boasts a five-inch display and
a 1.7 gigahertz processor, will compete against the likes of
Apple Inc's iPhone 5S and Samsung Electronics Co's
Galaxy S4, along with a slew of other devices that
are powered by Google Inc's Android platform.
BlackBerry also said its popular BlackBerry Messenger (BBM)
instant chat application will be available for rival iPhone and
Android devices this weekend.
Once a unique tool for sending short messages without
running up charges for them, BBM now competes with mobile
instant messaging products from Facebook, Apple and
others, and less directly with micro-blogging service Twitter.
Android users will be able to download the application on
Saturday, while iPhone users can get it on Sunday.
Former BlackBerry co-Chief Executive Jim Balsillie left the
company after his earlier plan to make BBM more broadly
available was blocked by executives fearful that would eat into
BlackBerry handset sales.
LACK OF CLARITY
BlackBerry faces a battle generating interest in the new
phone, however, given the lack of certainty about its future.
Wells Fargo analyst Maynard Um said the success of the Z30
would depend on carrier availability, pricing and the pace of
"While the Z30 helps to bring the focus back to the
fundamental business, we believe investors' attention is focused
on a potential take-out," Um wrote in a note to clients.
The company has long aspired to make its BlackBerry 10
operating system the No. 3 smartphone platform in the market,
but the latest industry data indicates that Microsoft Corp's
Windows Phone platform is more likely to clinch that
spot as its devices continue to gain ground.
Although the new line of BlackBerry devices has been well
received by reviewers, analysts say the company lacks the
financial heft to take on the likes of Apple, Google, Samsung
and Microsoft, which boast massive budgets for marketing and
research and development.
Some analysts contend that Microsoft's move earlier this
month to acquire Nokia's phone business and license
its patents for $7.3 billion poses another hurdle for
BlackBerry, as the software maker is likely to redouble its
catch-up efforts in the mobile device business.
But Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry, which is set to
report its fiscal second-quarter results next week, appears to
be sticking with its product road map for now, even as it
reviews its alternatives.
The company, which touts the Z30 as its "biggest, fastest
and most advanced smartphone" to date, said the device will
begin to hit store shelves in the UK and parts of the Middle
East as early as next week.
The smartphone will go on sale with select carriers and
retailers in other regions over the remainder of the year, said
the company, adding that specific pricing and availability will
be announced by its partners at the time of their respective
Shares of BlackBerry fell 2.2 percent, or 24 Canadian cents,
to end regular trading at C$10.64 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.