| | RIM's Profit, Sales Double Amid BlackBerry Demand
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From the Wall St. Journal...
BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd., showing its popular device is moving beyond purely business customers, reported strong third-quarter earnings fueled by rapid consumer growth during the lead-up to the holiday season.
The Waterloo, Ontario-based equipment maker and wireless email provider said net income surged to $370.5 million, or 65 cents a share, up from $175.2 million, or 31 cents a share, from the same quarter last year. Revenue doubled from the year-earlier period, to $1.67 billion.
The company's stock climbed more than 11% in after-hours trading on the Nasdaq stock market to $119.53 a share.
In recent weeks, RIM stock -- which trebled since the start of the year to a closing high of $133 last month -- has fallen amid macroeconomic jitters and worries that a slowdown in technology spending at large corporations could hurt RIM's business.
RIM's results and positive outlook brushed aside those concerns for now. In its most recent quarter ended Dec. 1, the company added 1.65 million subscriber accounts, up from 1.45 million in its second quarter. As of Dec. 1, RIM had roughly 12 million subscriber accounts, of which 34% are consumers and small business users, up from about 30% in the prior quarter.
"It is clear from the results in this quarter that BlackBerry smartphones have crossed over" into the consumer market, said RIM's co-chief executive James Balsillie on a call with analysts. He added that the volume of wireless carriers' holiday promotions featuring the BlackBerry had exceeded the company's expectations and helped lift sales.
RIM's consumer push is steaming ahead thanks to the uptake of new devices with more multimedia capabilities. The quarter included the introduction of an updated version of RIM's BlackBerry Pearl by Sprint Nextel Corp. and Verizon Wireless, a device for which there was pent-up demand. Internationally, RIM saw strong growth in Latin America.
Another spurt in growth could come in a few months as a result of a dramatic new design -- a touch-screen BlackBerry. At least one European carrier is testing the new design, according to Gus Papageorgiou, managing director, Technology Hardware Research at Scotia Capital. A spokeswoman for RIM declined to comment.
A touch-screen BlackBerry could help RIM compete with Apple Inc.'s popular iPhone, which sells more to consumers than businesses. RIM would have to find a clever way to tailor a touch-screen BlackBerry to business professionals with heavy email habits. One possibility is a rollaway keypad.
Despite heavy competition from handset makers, RIM continues to widen its share of the market. In the third quarter of 2007, RIM held 39% of the market for U.S. smartphone and cellular PDA shipments, up from 35.6% during the third quarter of 2006, according to Gartner Inc. World-wide, the company's share of smartphone and PDA shipments grew from 7% to 10% during the same period.
Thursday, wireless communications company TeleCommunication Systems Inc. announced it filed a patent lawsuit against RIM. The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, alleges that RIM products that allow users to access multiple e-mail accounts on their wireless devices violate one of the company's patents. A RIM spokeswoman said the company does not comment on ongoing litigation.