RIM shares slump as service revenue, subscriber concerns weigh

Thu Dec 20, 2012 9:58pm EST
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By Euan Rocha

(Reuters) - Research In Motion shares tumbled more than 10 percent on Thursday after the company reported the first ever decline in its subscriber numbers and outlined plans to transform the way it charges for its BlackBerry services.

RIM, which hopes to revive its fortunes and reinvent itself via the launch of a brand new line of BlackBerry 10 devices next month, caught investors off-guard on its quarterly conference call, when it said it plans to alter its service revenue model - a move that will pressure the high-margin business that accounts for about a third of RIM's sales.

"RIM provided few details regarding the economics of these changes, thus adding a large cloud of uncertainty to the primary driver of its profitability, which we view as especially worrisome given risks already surrounding the firm's massive BlackBerry 10 transition," said Morningstar analyst Brian Colello.

Those subscribers who need enhanced services like advanced security will pay for these services, while those who do not use such services will generate much lower to no service revenue, RIM Chief Executive Thorsten Heins told analysts and investors on a conference call on Thursday.

"I want to be very clear on this. Service revenues are not going away, but our business model and service offerings are going to evolve ... The mix in level of service fees revenue will change going forward and will be under pressure over the next year," cautioned Heins.

The news startled investors, who had earlier in the evening pushed RIM's stock more than 7 percent higher in post-market trading, after the company reported a narrower-than-expected quarterly loss and said it boosted its cash cushion ahead of next month's crucial launch of the BlackBerry 10 smartphone.

RIM's shares have for weeks been on a tear as optimism around BB10 has grown. Following RIM's surprise announcement on service revenues, however, the stock ended 9 percent lower at $12.85 in trading after the closing bell.

Analysts also expressed concern about the decline in RIM's subscriber base.   Continued...

A logo of the Blackberry maker's Research in Motion is seen on a building at the RIM Technology Park in Waterloo April 18, 2012. Picture taken April 18, 2012. REUTERS/Mark Blinch