Phones that are too expensive and slow to market. Increased competition. An “antiquated” operating system. If the sentiment around Research in Motion’s (TSX:RIM) upcoming Q2 earnings announcement Thursday sounds familiar, it’s because it is.
This time last year, the Waterloo tech giant couldn’t catch a break with analysts. Rival Apple was in the middle of an upswing that began in late 2008 and would ultimately more than quadruple its stock, from $82.33 on January 16th, 2009 to over $393 this past summer. RIM, on the other hand, was starting to be mentioned in the same breath as Palm, the beleaguered maker of the Palm Pilot that now serves as a cautionary tale to handheld-device makers everywhere.
But the script didn’t come off as many predicted, as RIM proceeded to handily beat the street’s expectations, delivering sales of $4.62 billion, which was up 31% over the same quarter in 2010 and earnings that were up whopping 76% to $1.46.
After that earnings announcement, last September 16th, shares of RIM bounced back, but only briefly and ever so slightly; from $46.31 on September 15th, to $51.20 on October 4th. Negative sentiment returned, especially after the release of RIM’s entry in the tablet wars, The Playbook, was released in the fall of last year. For many, the bearish call was confirmed this past June, when RIM’s co-CEO Jim Balsillie wrote the words “Fiscal 2012 has gotten off to a challenging start.” in the company’s Q1 earnings announcement. RIM’s Q1 earnings were down 12% from Q4 2011, but up 16% year over year. The news prompted the largest round of layoffs in the company’s near three decade history.
When RIM releases its Q2, 2012 results this Thursday will investors be looking at a Groundhog Day type scenario? Some reports say we just might. While RIM has continued to slide throughout much of 2011, hitting a low of $21.40 in August, shares of perked up of late.
The reason? Early indications are that the company’s recently released BlackBerry Bold 9900 is restoring some of the company’s lost lustre. In August, RBC analyst Mike Abramsky reported that sales of the device, which has been repeatedly called the “best BlackBerry ever” were off to a good start. Just days after its release, Abramsky reported that 20% of stores he contacted were sold out of the Bold 9930.
And overseas, there is new data that suggests Apple’s air of invincibility may be fading, if ever so slightly. The tech site Life of Android recently reported that “Apple’s hold over this fair and pleasant land has slipped by a whopping 8 per cent to 20.8 per cent over the 12 weeks ending 7 August.” The report went on to say that RIM, not Apple, is now the second most popular brand in the UK, up a “remarkable” four per cent to 21.5% of the market, from 17.4% last year.
The Wall Street Journal today reported that the consensus estimates for RIM’s Q2 was revenue of $4.5 billion in revenue and $0.67 cents a share in earnings. But for once, says the report “there are a surprising number of enthusiasts.” Sterne Agee’s Shaw Wu, the paper reports, says he has “picked up constructive feedback on its new BlackBerries including the Bold 9900 and Torch 9810 that shipped late in the quarter.”
At press time, shares of RIM on the TSX were up 0.2%, to $29.58.