* National Bank analyst raises price target on stock
* Brokerage firm also boosts its FY2014 shipment forecast
* RIM’s Toronto-listed shares jump more than 17 pct (Adds background, updates share price move)
By Euan Rocha
TORONTO, Nov 22 (Reuters) - Shares of Research In Motion Ltd surged 17.3 percent in Toronto on Thursday on rising optimism around RIM’s soon-to-be-launched BlackBerry 10 devices that will vie against Apple’s iPhone and Android-based smartphones.
The rally in RIM shares was sparked by National Bank analyst Kris Thompson, who boosted his price target on RIM shares to $15 from $12. Thompson believes that there is more money to be made in the stock ahead of the early 2013 launch of the make-or-break new line of devices.
It was the second vote of confidence this week for the Canadian company, which has struggled to compete with the iPhone and with devices running on Google’s market-leading Android operating system. On Tuesday, Jefferies & Co analyst Peter Misek, who has been one of RIM’s most influential critics, raised his rating and price target on the stock.
RIM shares, which have now risen in the last seven straight trading sessions, rose to their highest level since May on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Thursday and ended the day at C$12. The U.S. market, where trade volumes usually top those in Toronto, was closed for Thanksgiving on Thursday.
It was the biggest percentage gain in the stock since April 2009, when RIM shares rallied after the company’s results topped market expectations.
Thompson, who has an “outperform” rating on RIM stock, said he raised his price target due partly to the “positive sentiment building in the industry” ahead of BB10’s launch.
“The new management team is executing by maintaining the BlackBerry subscriber base, managing costs and cash, and seemingly readying a February 2013 BB10 global platform launch,” he said in a note to clients.
Earlier this week, Misek said a favorable reaction from telecom carriers to the new devices and the BB10 operating system that runs them was behind his decision to lift his rating and price target on RIM.
The BlackBerry maker, a smartphone pioneer, hopes BB10 will rescue it from a prolonged slump. RIM shares peaked at over $148 in 2008 before diving more than 90 percent.
The stock is up more than 90 percent in the past two months as the launch date for the BB10 devices nears. The stock has now enjoyed seven straight days of gains.
RIM promises its new devices will be faster and smoother than previous smartphones, and will have a large catalog of applications, which are crucial to the success of any new line of smartphones.
Thompson said he now expects RIM to ship about 35.5 million devices in fiscal 2014, up from an earlier estimate of 31.6 million. RIM, whose sales slump has been particularly pronounced in North America, shipped 7.4 million devices in its most recent quarter, ended Sept. 1.
RIM has said it plans to roll out a touchscreen version of its BB10 smartphone initially. Phones with the mini QWERTY keyboards that many long-time BlackBerry users rave about will come a few weeks later, while lower-end versions of both devices will be launched later in the year.
“The shipments boost reflects about one more month of BB10 product availability plus a little extra for the positive sentiment building in the industry from our discussions,” Thompson said.
Analysts had expected the new devices to go on sale in March. But RIM said earlier this month it plans to launch them on Jan 30, leading many to speculate they will hit store shelves around mid-February.
Chief Executive Thorsten Heins told Reuters last week he is confident that the new BB10s will provide RIM with a framework for growth over the next decade.
Earlier this month, the new platform and devices won U.S. government security clearance, which would allow both U.S. and Canadian government agencies to deploy the new smartphones as soon as they are available. (Editing by Theodore d’Afflisio Janet Guttsman and Peter Galloway)