More Troubles for RIM as Layoffs and Losses Persist – A Possible Acquisition Target

The big question is still: How much trouble Research In Motion Ltd (RIM) is  in? Shares of Research In Motion Ltd. – the maker of Blackberry-  have fallen so far so fast that some are wondering again if Canada’s pride could soon become a takeover target.


“Given how significant the deterioration of the stock price has been, that alone will cause interest,” said Paul Taylor, the chief investment officer at BMO Harris Private Banking in Toronto, according to Bloomberg News. “RIM still has meaningful market share in the U.S. and meaningful market share internationally, and RIM has an iconic brand.”


Mr. Taylor said “it’s not hard to envision” a takeover bid of between $40 and $50 a share for the BlackBerry maker. It was only a few years ago that RIM shares were trading above $140, and the company’s market cap topped $80-billion. The stock regained a tiny bit of ground today, trading just below $26.


In the past, the buzz has suggested companies such as Microsoft Corp. or Oracle Corp. could take a run at RIM. But with the recent huge investment made by Microsoft in Nokia probably rules them out – for now.


Last week, after RIM’s poor first-quarter results, which sparked the latest rout, The Wall Street Journal noted that RIM could instead be broken up, given that even at its current price it’s still a hefty target for an acquirer to digest. And its various pieces are valuable.


RIM has promised better times ahead, and exciting products, even as it slashed its financial forecast and promised job cuts. It’s losing market share in the key U.S. market amid heightened competition from Apple Inc., maker of the popular iPhone, and Google Inc., whose Android operating system has been doing exceptionally well.


That’s down from RBC’s previous projection $23.7-billion (U.S.) in and earnings per share of $6.50. Mr. Abramsky slashed his price target to $35 from $45, but held his rating at “sector perform.”


In a move that demonstrates how bad things are getting, Research In Motion lost another marketing executive, as the company’s downward spiral from the top of the smartphone market continues. RIM’s vice president of digital marketing and media, Brian Wallace, left the BlackBerry maker to join Samsung, pushing down an already slumping shares nearly 7 percent on Monday, closing at just under $29 per share.


Wallace is the second major executive to leave the Waterloo, Ontario-based company in four months.


In February, RIM’s chief marketing officer Keith Pardy left the company just days before the release of the BlackBerry PlayBook, RIM’s first tablet device, which shipped about 500,000 units in the first quarter. Wallace’s departure comes at a tumultuous time for RIM. Last week, the company announced its first quarterly drop in sales since 2005. Profits fell 10 percent from just a year ago, leading the company to announce layoffs were imminent.


RIM, which was the most used OS just over a year ago, has fallen behind both Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android, now the nation’s most-used mobile platform. The Canadian company can blame no one but itself for its poor performance over the last year. RIM’s inability to update its sluggish, outdated operating system and introduce a fresh line of devices has given rivals Apple and Google a leg up in the industry, and combined they now own over 50 percent of the mobile market. In its heyday, BlackBerry alone used to own half the total market.


The company has also seen its market share in the traditionally strong business sector begin to erode. Deutsche Bank and several departments of the U.S. government, including the Department of Veteran Affairs, Congress and the State Department, now allow employees to use iPhones and sometimes Android devices rather than once-mandated BlackBerry handsets.


The company’s poor performance has investors worried. Earlier this month, investor Northwest & Ethical called for a vote to separate the roles of chairman and CEO. Investors appear to have lost faith in current co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis’ and their ability to lead, and think a change at the top might get the company headed in the right direction again.


RIM is struggling but has hope in its new operating system. The company is banking on the success of its BlackBerry line, which will run on its new QNX operating system. But because these devices will not be available until early 2012, the company could be facing an even more competitive market if Apple releases its iPhone 5 before they debut.


The once-successful company is having trouble selling devices, retaining executives, and keeping its corporate customers, like the government. It appears the situation will get worse before it gets better for RIM.


Also four days after announcing it would reduce its workforce, Research In Motion started cutting jobs in Waterloo on Monday. A number of employees received layoff notices after arriving for work. There were reports that as many as 200 employees were let go, but those numbers could not be confirmed.


Jamie Ernst, a spokesperson from RIM, said in an email Monday evening that he didn’t have any details about job cuts beyond what was announced Thursday during a conference call the company held to discuss its first-quarter financial results.


RIM said during the call that it would launch a “cost-optimization program” during the current quarter. It said it would focus on removing redundancies and reallocate resources toward the highest growth opportunities and new product introductions. The company employs 17,500 globally, including about 9,000 in more than 25 buildings in Waterloo Region. News of the job cuts came after RIM reported disappointing financial results.

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