BlackBerry Torch seen aiding RIM's results

Mon Dec 13, 2010 4:09pm EST
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By Alastair Sharp

TORONTO (Reuters) - Research In Motion likely sold as many BlackBerrys in its last quarter as Apple sold iPhones, aided by a strong showing from its new Torch smartphone, as Google gathers steam and Microsoft enters the fray.

The Torch -- a touchscreen phone with a slide-out qwerty keyboard -- comes with an improved browser and revamped operating system. It shipped to dozens of carriers after an August launch with AT&T in the United States, and an AT&T half-price promotion from early November likely helped sales.

But as the smartphone market explodes, RIM faces a groundswell of skepticism, with even its long-dominant position in mobile corporate communication questioned as banks consider allowing employees to bring in other devices.

RIM has lost some 4 percentage points of global smartphone market share in a year, according to industry tracker IDC.

In the three months to November 27 the Canadian company is expected to have shipped 14.1 million BlackBerrys, the mid-range of its own robust guidance, according to 23 analyst forecasts compiled by Reuters.

That would tie it with the number of iPhones Apple shipped in its quarter ended September 25 -- a figure Apple chief Steve Jobs boasts as putting RIM firmly in Apple's rearview mirror.

Analysts expect RIM to earn $1.64 per share in the third quarter, according to Reuters data. Revenue is seen at $5.40 billion, with gross margin likely slipping to 42 percent, in line with management guidance.

RIM has forecast earnings between $1.62 and $1.70 per share and revenue of between $5.3 billion and $5.55 billion.   Continued...