BlackBerry results top forecasts, fueling recovery hopes

Thu Jun 19, 2014 4:41pm EDT
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By Euan Rocha and Alastair Sharp

WATERLOO Ontario/TORONTO (Reuters) - BlackBerry Ltd posted a narrower-than-expected quarterly loss on Thursday as the troubled smartphone maker's turnaround efforts started to pay off, raising hope that its chief executive can deliver on a pledge to return the company to steady profits.

John Chen, who took the reins at BlackBerry seven months ago, has worked rapidly to trim costs, giving the Waterloo, Ontario-based company more time to stabilize its struggling handset business and earn more money from services and software.

BlackBerry shares surged more than 10 percent after the company said it spent less cash than many expected in its fiscal first quarter, ended May 31, and its gross profit margin rose.

"The short trade is over in this name, for now," said BGC analyst Colin Gillis. "They've got enough liquidity, and they've given us clear profitability targets."

BlackBerry said its low-cost Z3 smartphone was selling well in Indonesia and that its services business, which manages its own and rival mobile devices on the internal networks of large organizations, had won back some customers from rivals.

BlackBerry has more than halved its workforce over the last two years as part of a do-or-die push to turn its business around after losing ground to Apple Inc's iPhone and Samsung Electronics Co devices that run on Google Inc's Android system.

Chen wants BlackBerry to remain a competitor in the smartphone segment, but he is focused on its services business, which made up 54 percent of revenue in the quarter, up from 26 percent only a year earlier. The company works with hundreds of large companies and government agencies to securely manage their networks.

As the company rolls out new phones later this year, its revenue growth is likely to be driven more by its smartphones, but the services business is likely to drive higher margins, Chen told reporters.   Continued...

A man is silhouetted against a video screen with the Blackberry logo as he pose with a Blackberry Q10 in this photo illustration taken in the central Bosnian town of Zenica, September 21, 2013.REUTERS/Dado Ruvic