UPDATE 1-BlackBerry shares drubbed, just days before key results

Mon Mar 25, 2013 5:27pm EDT
 
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(Adds investor and analyst comments, updates share price)

TORONTO, March 25 (Reuters) - Reports of a lackluster launch of its pivotal new smartphone in the U.S. market cost BlackBerry an influential downgrade on its stock on Monday and a 4 percent drop in its share price, just days ahead of quarterly results that will offer the first concrete gauge of how its new phone is being received.

The results, due on Thursday, will offer a glimpse of sales of the new Z10 device in Britain, Canada and several other markets, where it has been available for more than a month.

Sales in the vital U.S. market began only on Friday, and to little or no fanfare, prompting Goldman Sachs to cut its rating on BlackBerry to "neutral" from "buy". Goldman cited little marketing support from the company and apparently low sales.

The Goldman report, coupled with other media and analysts' reports of a flat U.S. debut, have pulled down the volatile stock more than 11 percent on the Nasdaq since Friday, including a fall of 4.5 percent to $14.23 on Monday.

Nevertheless, an upbeat forecast from the company on Thursday could push BlackBerry shares higher again, said Eric Jackson, founder and managing Partner of Ironfire Capital LLC, which owns shares in BlackBerry.

"Even if they report a so-so quarter ... If they provide robust guidance for the current quarter that could really light a fire under the stock," said Jackson, once a long-time bear on BlackBerry's stock but who is now bullish on its prospects.

LOW EXPECTATIONS   Continued...