* New handsets seen boosting RIM outlook
* Analysts expect EPS of $1, revenue of $3.63 billion
* Analyst sees “further upside” for RIM stock
(In U.S. dollars unless noted)
TORONTO, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Research In Motion RIM.TORIMM.O is expected to forecast strong gains for its current quarter on Thursday as it gets set to update its BlackBerry smartphones for consumers and business users.
As the recession eases, the company is already benefiting from reinvigorated growth in the market for phones that are capable of surfing the Web and sending email, analysts say.
The improvements should show up on Thursday when it reports results for the three months ended Aug. 29. Analysts, on average, see a 16.3 percent increase in profit and a 41 percent rise in revenue for RIM’s second quarter, according to Reuters Estimates.
Even more importantly to analysts, the company is expected to boost its forecast for the current quarter, which finishes at the end of November.
The optimism comes as the Waterloo, Ontario-based company prepares to expand a smartphone line that offers far more choices that either of its main rivals, Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Palm Inc. PALM.O, analysts say.
“As both consumers and businesses position themselves to ratchet up their spending in support of the recovery ... RIM is very well-positioned to take advantage of that, no matter what market it’s in.” Carmi Levy, an independent technology analyst, said of Canada’s best known technology company.
The high expectations are reflected in RIM’s share price. Since July the stock has risen more than 18 percent as investors anticipated a rebound in business and consumer spending boosting the company’s performance. The stock has doubled since the end of last year.
RBC Dominion Securities analyst Mike Abramsky wrote in a note to clients that he foresees further gains for RIM shares, thanks to its new models and the accelerating smartphone market. He has an “outperform” rating on RIM.
On average, analysts expect the company to earn $1 a share before one-time items in its fiscal second quarter, compared with 86 cents a share a year earlier. Revenue is seen coming in at $3.63 billion compared with $2.58 billion, according to Reuters Estimates.
For the current third quarter, RIM is expected to earn $1.05 a share before items on revenue of $3.9 billion. Last year, it reported earnings of 83 cents a share and revenue of $2.78 billion.
As RIM has expanded its customer base to include retail users, handsets like the touchscreen BlackBerry Storm have become more important to its strategy and, consequently, to expectations of analysts and investors.
“We believe that the company continues to do well as carriers’ increasing emphasis on bandwidth plays to RIM’s strength,” said Canaccord Adams analyst Peter Misek.
“Bandwidth” refers to the airwaves used when feature-rich handsets like the BlackBerry send text messages, surf the Web and check e-mail. Carriers want customers to use such services because they generate profits beyond those made on traditional voice calling.
RIM has already said it is working on a next-generation version of the Storm, its answer to Apple’s (AAPL.O) popular iPhone. RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie said in May that the original Storm has been a huge success in terms of sales and subscriber adoption.
In June, RIM launched another device called the BlackBerry Tour, which falls somewhere between the BlackBerry Curve — very popular with retail users — and the Bold, which RIM has aimed at high-end corporate users.
At Verizon (VZ.N), sales representatives of the U.S. carrier say the Tour is their top-selling smartphone, helped by a buy-one-get-one-free promotion, Abramsky said.
$1=$1.07 Canadian Reporting by Wojtek Dabrowski; editing by Frank McGurty