BlackBerry maker RIM reports small third-quarter profit, beats estimates

TORONTO – Research In Motion beat expectations in its latest financial results as it prepared for the make-or-break launch next year of the BlackBerry 10 smartphones and operating system.

The company reported a profit of $9 million or two cents per share for the three months ended Dec. 1, compared with a profit of $265 million or 51 cents per share a year ago. Revenue totalled $2.73 billion, down from $5.17 billion.

On an adjusted basis, RIM (TSX:RIM) said it lost $114 million or 22 cents per diluted share. Analysts expected a quarterly loss of 32 cents per adjusted share on revenue of $2.6 billion.

The adjusted figures exclude the impact of RIM’s restructuring efforts and an income tax benefit recorded during the quarter.

The company’s cash position also improved to more than $2.9 billion.

In after hours trading in New York, RIM shares (Nasdaq:RIMM) initially surged upwards of eight per cent, but later in the session were trading up 15 cents, or one per cent, to $14.27.

On the Toronto Stock Exchange, the company’s shares ended the session up 3.4 per cent, or 46 cents, to $13.95 before the earnings were announced.

The launch of the new smartphones will see the Waterloo, Ont., company enter the most important months of its history — ones that will likely determine whether RIM survives in its existing form.

“Starting in the fourth quarter we will begin seeing revenue from BlackBerry 10 devices,” chief executive Thorsten Heins told analysts in a conference call.

“We believe the company has stabilized and will turn the quarter in the next year,” he added.

During the quarter, the company shipped 6.9 million BlackBerry smartphones and 255,000 BlackBerry PlayBook tablets, however the company’s subscriber base slipped by 1 million to 79 million from the previous quarter.

“The subscriber decline was a surprise. We thought that emerging market strength would probably help maintain that number, so that fact that it slipped… is meaningful,” said Bill Kreher, a technology analyst with financial services firm Edward Jones.

“The conversation really doesn’t change here. It was a bit of a mixed bag in terms of the results but the company’s future still hinges on this Jan. 30 launch.”

In its outlook, RIM said it expected continued pressure on operating results in the fourth quarter and warned the timing of the BlackBerry 10 launch on Jan. 30 could hurt sales of its current models as customers wait for the new devices.

RIM also said it expected to significantly increase its marketing spending in the fourth quarter and report an operating loss.

“Our core financial objectives have been achieved one quarter ahead of our initial targets and we have already delivered $1 billion in cost reductions this year,” Heins said.

“We expect to pursue more opportunities in the coming quarters as we pursue new ways to accomplish things smarter and drive greater efficiency within the company.”

With RIM heading into uncertain territory in the new year, RIM’s stock price has traded erratically.

Since falling to its lowest level in about a decade in September, the company’s shares have surged about 125 per cent, helped by a number of analyst upgrades.

This year, RIM has watched its market share in North America dramatically fall to about four per cent as the BlackBerry became an afterthought in the face of Apple’s iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy S3.

And while other companies debuted new devices, RIM was forced to push the launch of its BlackBerry 10 operating system and new phones into next year, missing the crucial back-to-school and holiday shopping seasons.

The company has also made significant reductions across its operations, closing facilities, severing ties with certain manufacturers and announcing plans to lay off 5,000 workers across its global operations in an effort to save $1 billion by the end of its fiscal year.