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Die hard BlackBerry fans are more worried than ever that Research in Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM) may soon meet its maker.
The recent declines in profit, sales and RIMM stock — which has plummeted 51% in the past six months — has sparked mounting anxieties that the end for Research in Motion is imminent.
Speaking to these fears, RIM's new Chief Executive Officer, Thorsten Heins, vowed yesterday (Tuesday) that he will lead a turnaround for the beleaguered company, starting with a successful 2013 launch of its next-generation BlackBerry 10 phones.
Like a preacher on a pulpit, Heins maintained in an address to besieged shareholders that he would convert RIM into a "lean, mean, hunting machine."
"I have assembled a leadership team for RIM that's truly capable of taking us into the future," Heins promised.
BlackBerry fanatics, who helped coin the catch phrase "CrackBerry" to refer to their "addiction" to the iconic mobile phones, are pleading for RIM to make it – but it may be too late.
"If RIM continues to be run as it is, we believe that the company will eventually fail," wrote Nomura analyst Stuart Jeffrey in a June note to clients.
Heins has his work cut out for him. In fact, the job of saving Research in Motion may be impossible.
RIMM stock has plunged more than 87% over the past 18 months. BlackBerry's market share has not simply shrunk, it has nearly vanished. Consumers have raced to hop on Apple Inc.'s (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone bandwagon or switched to smartphones based on Google Inc.'s (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android platform.
Shareholders at the annual meeting Tuesday criticized the board for not being more in tune with breakout products in the tech world.
"What this board is missing is more technologically savvy expertise, marketing expertise and a little more transaction expertise," shareholder Vic Alboini, chairman of the Toronto-based investment firm Jaguar Financial Corp., said at the meeting. "This is too cozy and clubby a board."
The freshly appointed Heins acknowledged shareholder dissatisfaction with the stock's dismal performance over the last year and the group's annoyance with delays of the BlackBerry 10 launch.
"I am not satisfied with the performance of the company over the past year. Many of you are frustrated with the time it has taken us to make our way through the transition," Heins agreed.
Just last month, the Canadian-based company posted its first operating loss in eight years as sales plunged 43% to $2.8 billion.
To cope with the lost revenue, Heins said 5,000 jobs will be slashed.
Some shareholders hope a potential buyout will deliver a good premium to the current RIMM stock price of under $8 a share.
"If the stock is selling at working capital, if you look at its patents and its embedded base of customers, you have something in the range of $20," Donald Yacktman, the president and co-CIO of money manager Yacktman Asset Management, told The Street.
Yacktman, however, said RIM's assets are a "melting ice cube." Offers will decrease in value as RIM's situation becomes more desperate.
Pressure on Blackberry 10 Debut
The company on Tuesday announced plans to roll out its first souped-up BlackBerry 10 phones in January. While providing a more specific time frame than RIM's previous goal of the first quarter, the announcement was skimpy on the details.
"My expectation is that in some countries we will be launching in January. Will it be three continents or five, five countries or 10? I don't know the specifics yet, but it will be multiple countries on multiple continents," Frank Boulben, RIM's new chief marketing officer said in an interview with Bloomberg News prior to the meeting.
And yet Boulben still could not give assurance of a January debut, saying wireless carriers' testing of the device could run late.
"The testing process of our carrier partners can take up to eight, 10, 12 weeks, so we are dependent of them," he said.
But Nomura's Jeffrey said with all of RIM's troubles he gives the launch a "very low likelihood of success."
While shareholders try to keep the faith in Heins's determination, it takes a brave investor to buy in at this point.
RIMM stock was up about 3% in midday trading to $7.52.
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