* Heins at annual meeting says BB10 will turn RIM around
* CEO acknowledges shareholders' discontent
* Company's slate of directors elected by shareholders
* Few direct questions about RIM's direction posed
* RIM shares drop 5 pct to $7.29 on Nasdaq
By Alastair Sharp
WATERLOO, Ontario, July 10 Research In Motion
Ltd's new CEO vowed on Tuesday to turn around
the embattled company with a new generation of Bl ackBerry
de vices to be launched ne xt year as he tr ansforms R I M into a
"lean, mean, hunting machine."
Thorsten Heins, presiding over his first annual meeting
since being named chief executive in January, faces a formidable
battle to put the embattled smartphone maker back on track after
a s hare-pr i ce swo on th at has wiped away 80 percent of its market
Sounding contrite, Heins acknowledged grumbles about the
company's performance and shareholder frustration with the delay
in the launch of the new phones until after the crucial holiday
"I am not satisfied with the performance of the company over
the past year," Heins said to a mostly subdued audience in
Waterloo, Ontario, RIM's home city. "Many of you are frustrated
with the time it has taken us to make our way through the
RIM virtually invented mobile email with its first
BlackBerry devices more than a decade ago, b ut the BlackBerry's
market share has evaporated as consumers flock to Apple Inc's
iPhone and devices based on Google Inc's
The stock slipped 5 percent to $7.29 on Nasdau a s investors
digested news from the annual meeting.
RIM, which says it is examining all options, including
partnerships, joint ventures or even the outright sale of the
company, is pinning its hopes on a new line of devices that will
run on a new operating system - BlackBerry 10.
Heins, who joined RIM from electronics giant Siemens AG and
took over as CEO in January, expressed confidence that RIM was
heading in the right direction un der his new management.
"I have assembled a leadership team for RIM that's truly
capable of taking us into future," he told shareholders.
RIM last month posted its first operating loss in eight
years and said it was cutting 5,000 jobs, almost a third of its
workforce, as it struggles win back its reputation as an
At the same time company pushed back the launch of the
BlackBerry 10 devices to next year from the final quarter of
this year. Heins said the delay r eflected RIM's determination to
make sure that the devices were ready for the big time.
The annual meeting produced little in the way of fireworks
from shareholders and few direct questions about how the company
got itself into its current mess.
"There was no mention of a sale of the company, no mention
of a breakup of the company, and again, our big, big concern is
if the BB10s are a dud," said Jaguar Financial CEO Vic Alboini,
who says he speaks for an ad-hoc alliance of disgruntled RIM
investors. "Where are we then?"
Heins said RIM plans to prune down its vast array of
BlackBerry models to focus on high-end and mid-range devices
that will come with either touchscreen or physical keyboards.
The company might be able to provide concrete answers to its
investors on the outcome of the strategic review process "in a
few months," the chief executive told reporters.
"There is a lot of action going on, looking at very
different options for what the company could do," he said. "When
it's time to go public with it we'll go public with it."
Heins conceded that RIM would likely suffer lower average
selling prices and declining service revenue this year as it
pushes to sell existing BlackBerry devices.
Despite RIM's recent performance, the company's slate of
directors was elected at the meeting with token opposition,
although preliminary results showed a number of shareholder
votes were withheld, including 19 percent for former co-CEO Mike
John Richardson had 30 percent of votes withheld, following
the recommendation of proxy advisory firm Glass Lewis. It said
Richardson, as lead director, had failed to properly oversee the
provision of stock options to RIM employees, which were
erroneously back-dated over an eight-year period.
Barbara Stymiest, the board chair, fielded a number of
shareholder queries a bout h ow directors have performed. She
ex pressed her confidence in her colleagues and po inted out t h at
four of the bo ard's 10 members ha ve joined in the last year.
" T hat's a huge amount of change and part of the dynamic in
managing any board is managing smooth transitions," she said,
adding that RIM would co nsider a dding new di rectors.