Research In Motion
slumped on Wednesday after a mixed earnings report, but at least some investors are still bullish on the former highflier.
On Tuesday afternoon, the BlackBerry maker
reported earnings that topped analysts' pro forma expectations. However, RIM's revenue fell short of consensus estimates, despite jumping 92% year over year, and the company's revenue outlook was below analysts' forecasts.
Following the report, the company's stock sold off as much as 6% in after-hours trading. On Wednesday, they traded off as much as $3.28, or 4.4%, to $71.12 before recovering some lost ground. In recent trading, the company's stock was off just 90 cents, or 1.2%, to $73.50.
Bulls acknowledge that the company gave doubters some ammunition. But they argue that RIM's results were stronger than the market was giving it credit for. Both the company's subscriber growth and its gross margins came in much higher than expected, they note.
"From the numbers, it looks like everything was solid," said one buy-side analyst, who asked to remain anonymous. "I think people have to realize that they had unrealistic expectations.
"At the end of the day, tell me how many large-cap stocks are growing this quickly?" added the analyst, whose firm is long RIM.
RIM was one of the market stars last year, when its shares rose more than 145%. But the company's stock is off 11.6% in the year to date amid a legal dispute and concerns about competition.
The company addressed the legal dispute last month by agreeing to pay patent holding company
$450 million, which immediately boosted the shares. But questions about competition and future growth have stuck.
The company didn't exactly put those concerns to rest with its report. Instead, its revenue came in below the Street's predictions thanks to weaker-than-expected hardware sales.
Meanwhile, investors may have had trouble getting their heads around a tax accounting issue that came up in the quarter. Because of improving results and the fact that the NTP matter is out of the way, the company now expects to have to recognize a higher tax rate than it previously projected. That means the company's earnings won't be as good as analysts had been predicting.
Bulls were quick to dismiss both the revenue and the tax issue. The tax issue was just "noise," they said. Nobody wants to pay higher taxes, but the higher tax rate is not an operational issue, they noted.
"I'm not going to make a big deal about that," said Jay Somaney, a portfolio manager with TSG Capital Group, who is long RIM's stock and call options.
On the revenue side, the Street simply got too far ahead of the company, bulls said. But there's not much to worry about there, they argued.
RIM blamed the hardware sales issue on moves by carriers to reduce inventory. That's likely to be a short-term issue, the company argued -- and bulls agreed. Indeed, RIM could see better-than-expected hardware sales in coming quarters if demand takes off in Europe and Asia, said the buy-side analyst.
Bulls also pointed to subscription growth. In the quarter, RIM added 470,000 subscribers in the quarter, bringing its total to 2.5 million. The company seems well on the way to hitting 5 million subscribers, possibly by the end of its fiscal year, bulls said. Those new subscribers represent future revenue and should offset concerns about the company's revenue growth slowing, they said.
"The subscription adds were good, and the subscription forecast was good," said Somaney.
Meanwhile, the company saw better-than-expected sales of software in the quarter, helping boost its gross margin to 56.8%, up from 49.1% in the year-ago period. Some investors have criticized the company for being primarily a hardware company, since that's where it gets the lion's share of its revenue. But few hardware companies can match RIM's margins, bulls noted.
The market is "not giving them the benefit of the doubt on margins," said Scott Rothbort, president of LakeView Asset Management and a contributor to
sister Web site
. He is long RIM.
Still, even the bulls acknowledged that RIM's report wasn't an unqualified success and the company could have done more to address some of the outstanding concerns. The company didn't talk about when it will start seeing meaningful sales in Asia or what opportunities are open to it now that the NTP suit is over, said Somaney.
In that sense, the company's report was disappointing, he said. In terms of addressing those issues, "they could have done a lot better job," he said.