Updated from 4:44 p.m. EDT

Research In Motion ( RIMM), the Canada-based maker of the popular BlackBerry handheld devices, showed off robust growth and managed to pare its loss in the first quarter of fiscal year 2004, while upping its guidance for the quarter underway.

Sales of $104.5 million were 46% above last year's levels and well above the Wall Street consensus estimate for $94.6 million.

RIM also narrowed its loss to $8.2 million, up from last year's loss of $10.7 million. On an EPS basis the loss amounted to 11 cents a share.

The company took a charge of $7.5 million for ongoing litigation, including $6.9 million for enhanced compensatory damages held in escrow.

The charge stems from RIM's legal battle against NTP, a privately held firm that won a jury verdict last November ruling that RIM had infringed on its patents.

Without the litigation expense, RIMM's loss per share would have been a penny, better than analysts' estimate for a forma loss of 9 cents a share.

By category, half of all sales in the May quarter came from handheld. Of the remainder, 37% came from services; 6% from software licenses and development, and 7% from OEM radios and other revenue.

RIM said the BlackBerry subscriber base grew to 81,000 from the prior quarter to 615,000 subscribers.

For the second quarter ending in August, RIM forecast revenues in the range of $105 million to $115 million, up from the range of $95 million to $105 million it had projected in April. The new guidance is above the Wall Street consensus estimate for August quarter sales of around $100 million.

RIM expects to add another 80,000 to 90,000 BlackBerry subscribers, bringing the total customer base to 700,000 by the end of the quarter.

The company also lifted its pro forma guidance, saying it now expects earnings per share to fall in a range between a loss of 4 cents and a profit of a penny. That compares to a previous forecast for negative EPS of 5 cents to 10 cents. However, after accounting for likely litigation charges, RIM outlined a likely EPS loss of 10 cents to 14 cents per share.

Sales should continue to rise in the November quarter to between $115 million and $125 million. Its earnings are expected to improve slightly to between a loss of 2 cents and a profit of 3 cents excluding litigation. Including litigation, the loss should be about the same as the expectation for the prior quarter, in the red by 10 cents to 14 cents.

After hours the stock gained 17 cents or 0.7%. In regular trading shares closed up 68 cents or 3.1% to $22.83.

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