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RIM Sent Reeling

RIM's earnings guidance matched the range the company gave back in April, while the revenue outlook was actually up by $5 million on both the low and high ends of the range. But the midpoints of the outlook -- earnings of 60 cents a share on about $477.5 million in sales -- were below analysts' estimates. Wall Street had forecast that RIM would earn 61 cents a share on $482.1 million in sales in the current quarter.

Though the company now believes second-quarter revenue will be better than previously expected, it expects gross margins to decline "slightly" in the second quarter from the first, said company CFO Dennis Kavelman. Gross margins, which represent the difference between what customers pay a company for products and services and the direct costs to the company of providing those goods and services, fell from 56.8% in the fourth quarter of last year to 55.1% in the just-completed quarter.

RIM introduced an update for its enterprise software in the fourth quarter. Strong sales of that software, which RIM sells at a higher profit margin than its BlackBerry pagers, boosted the company's overall revenue in the fourth quarter, Kavelman said. Gross margins declined in the current quarter because of moderating sales of the enterprise software, a trend that will likely continue in the coming two quarters, he said.

Perhaps adding to investor concerns about the company's guidance, RIM said little about its ongoing dispute with patent-holding company NTP beyond what it has already announced. The companies announced in March that they had agreed to settle their dispute, but RIM warned investors earlier this month that settlement talks with NTP have fallen apart and that the row is heading back to the courts.

Beyond the already disclosed legal maneuvering, "there is nothing new to report" in terms of the lawsuit, company co-CEO Jim Balsillie said on a conference call.
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