RIM posts loss as new CEO begins to clean house

Fri Mar 30, 2012 12:52pm EDT
 
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By Alastair Sharp

TORONTO (Reuters) - Research In Motion posted a net loss and its first slump in BlackBerry shipments for its holiday quarter since 2006, as its new CEO announced the initial steps in a strategic overhaul and would not rule out an eventual sale of the company.

RIM's shares dropped as much as 9 percent on Thursday after the company said it would no longer issue financial forecasts and was reviewing "strategic opportunities" such as partnerships and joint-venture licensing, and other ways to leverage its assets. A handful of senior executives, including former co-CEO and current director Jim Balsillie, will depart.

Chief Executive Thorsten Heins, who took over from Balsillie and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis in January, said he was still focusing on a turnaround of the company, which has been hammered by competition from Apple and Google's Android in recent years.

Even so, if the review pointed in the direction of a possible sale, he said, "We would consider it, but it is not the main direction we are pursuing right now."

"I did my own reality check on where the entire company really is," he said during a conference call with analysts. "It is now very clear to me that substantial change is what RIM needs."

After Heins spoke, RIM's shares settled about 2.4 percent lower, in part because he left open the option of partnerships that analysts said could allow the company to exit some aspects of its business, such as making hardware, while focusing on software and services.

"If you look at this quarter alone ... things are certainly incrementally worse. But on the flip side, he's raised some possibilities of strategy change, which a lot of people think is called for," Avian Securities analyst Matthew Thornton said.

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Research in Motion CEO Thorsten Heins gestures during an interview with Thomson Reuters in New York, January 27, 2012. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz