BlackBerry shares decline as phone debut disappoints

Bloomberg

Fri, Feb 01, 2013 - Page 15

BlackBerry shares tumbled 12 percent after the company’s long-awaited BlackBerry 10 debut, signaling that investors are skeptical the new models can win back customers from Apple Inc and Google Inc’s Android.

The company, known as Research In Motion until a name change on Wednesday, introduced a touch-screen phone called the Z10 and a version with a physical keyboard named the Q10, both of which will run the revamped BB10 software. The Z10 will not appear in the US until next month, with the Q10 likely to follow in April, the Waterloo, Ontario-based company said.

The event marks a do-or-die moment for the company, which has seen its market share fall to a quarter of what it was three years ago.

It is counting on the BlackBerry 10 to reverse that slide and help return the company to profitability.

After the presentation failed to impress investors, the stock had its biggest one-day decline in more than a month.

“I don’t think it’s going to be dramatically better,” said Roger Entner, an analyst with Recon Analytics in Dedham, Massachusetts. “At least not good enough to get people to switch from Apple iOS or Android.”

Chief executive officer Thorsten Heins and chief marketing officer Frank Boulben have been crisscrossing the globe to show carriers and corporate customers the BlackBerry 10’s features, aiming to distinguish the product from Apple’s iPhone 5 or devices that run on Google’s Android platform.

Heins has spent the past year overhauling the company, cutting 30 percent of its workforce in a bid to save US$1 billion and reorganizing the sales and marketing teams.

The stock more than doubled since September last year, reflecting growing investor support for the CEO’s strategy and optimism that BlackBerry 10 phones can catch on with consumers.

Still, the shares have pared those gains every day this week, including Wednesday’s slide. The stock fell to US$13.78 on Wednesday as investors wait to see how the product does.

“This thing has to have legs,” said Gus Papageorgiou, an analyst at Scotia Capital in Toronto.

The touch version of the phone relies on a virtual keyboard that learns where you usually hit the keys, improving typing accuracy over time.

Its software also lets users check their e-mail, calendars and other features without leaving the application they are running — relying on a “hub” interface.

“Whatever you do, you’re always one swipe away from the heart of your activities,” Heins said at yesterday’s event.