3 Min Read
* Shares have more than doubled since September
* Sprint confirms it will support BlackBerry 10 (Adds additional analyst quotes, background.)
By Allison Martell
TORONTO, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Shares of Research In Motion rallied on Friday as investors positioned themselves ahead of the launch of its new make-or-break BlackBerry 10 smartphones at the end of the month.
Morningstar analyst Brian Colello did not see any one news story driving the stock, which climbed steadily through much of the day. The new phones are to be formally unveiled on Jan. 30.
"The stock has been extremely volatile, based on BlackBerry 10 rumors and the potential for success in the market," said Colello.
Several blog posts published on Friday showed purportedly leaked photos of what could be the new phones, and a number of tech sites confirmed that Sprint Nextel Corp would carry BlackBerry 10.
"Sprint plans to bring BlackBerry 10 to our customers later this year. We will share more details soon," Mark Elliot, a spokesman for the U.S. carrier, said in an email.
Earlier this week, executives at Verizon Communications , AT&T Inc and T-Mobile USA all confirmed they would carry the smartphones, and said they are looking forward to the new devices.
"There are, I think, good indications that they're going to get a seat at all the tables that matter," said IDC analyst John Jackson, who called carrier support "necessary, but not sufficient" to ensure the success of BlackBerry 10.
Throughout the autumn of 2012, RIM's stock rose as investors grew more optimistic about BlackBerry 10. Morningstar's Colello said the market went from pricing in no chance of success, to betting on at least some chance of success for the new products.
But the rally broke off after RIM reported earnings in December, revealing that it would roll out a new fee structure for its services segment which some fear could put pressure on the high-margin business.
The new line's success is crucial to the future of RIM, which has lost ground to competitors such as Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics, and in December reported its first-ever decline in total subscribers.
BGC Partners analyst Colin Gillis said the news that all four major U.S. carriers would offer BlackBerry 10 was likely lifting the stock, along with Nokia's stronger-than-expected quarterly results -- a sign that Google Inc's Android smartphones have not completely taken over its market.
"The smartphone market is one of the most robust, largest markets in the world ... it's also dynamic," said Gillis. "The winners and losers are going to be shifting. That said, it's a difficult road the company is facing."
RIM's Nasdaq-listed shares were up 13.2 percent at $13.49. Shares jumped 12.6 percent to C$13.27 on the Toronto Stock Exchange. That more than doubled the price since the low of C$6.10 it touched in September. By late afternoon, RIM was the day's most heavily-traded stock on the Toronto Stock Exchange. (Additional reporting by Nicola Leske in New York; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Alden Bentley)