(Figures in U.S. dollars unless noted)
OTTAWA, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Research In Motion Ltd's RIM.TO RIMM.O shares were up nearly 16 percent before the market opened on Friday as analysts upgraded ratings and raised estimates to reflect big growth expectations for RIM's BlackBerry devices.
The smartphone maker's third-quarter profit more than doubled as RIM made a big push into the consumer market and launched a string of multimedia-heavy models; results that allayed some fears of a slowdown from its financial services customers.
Analysts said the results, reported after markets closed on Thursday, matched or slightly beat their expectations. But RIM's positive outlook sparked a raft of higher stock targets and profit expectations.
In pre-market trade, RIM stock rose to $123.75 from a close of $106.99 on Nasdaq on Thursday.
RIM said earnings for the three months ended Dec. 1 jumped to $370.5 million, or 65 cents a share, from $175.2 million, or 31 cents a share. It added 1.65 million subscribers and shipped more than 3.9 million devices as sales doubled to $1.67 billion, from $835.1 million a year earlier.
It forecast fourth-quarter sales of $1.8 billion to $1.87 billion, earnings per share of between 66 cents and 77 cents, 1.82 million subscriber additions.
"We think RIM falls somewhere between hyper-growth and supercharged growth," Bear Stearns analyst Andy Neff said in a note that hiked his stock rating to "outperform" from "peer perform" along with profit estimates.
"(RIM) is creating large new markets which are expanding globally, with diminished competition from mainstream handset vendors and alternate email solutions."
The stock is set to charge higher in 2008, said Raymond James analyst Sera Kim, amid a strong line up of new devices, growing subscriber base, a bigger push into the consumer market, and robust smartphone market.
Demand should also grow as RIM expands internationally, said UBS analysts Maynard Um and Jeffrey Fan. They see strength in such markets as Germany, Spain, France, Latin America and India.
"Though we remain cautious with regard to an after-effect from the financial services vertical, we are comfortable that management's guidance reflects the uncertainty of both financial services as well as consumer seasonality," they wrote.
Investors had worried that RIM would not be able to maintain its torrid pace of growth while a credit and liquidity crisis roils the financial-services companies that buy its smartphones.
$1=$1 Canadian Reporting by Susan Taylor; editing by Janet Guttsman