BlackBerry maker Research In Motion ( RIMM) is again bearing fruit. A positive outlook from its analyst day Monday, the launch of a new consumer-targeted phone called the BlackBerry Curve and signs that the company has more products awaiting launch dates this year seem to have revived investor interest. There's also a realization that RIM's business could remain unaffected by the upcoming release of Apple's ( AAPL) iPhone, whose features are likely to appeal to a different audience from RIM's, say analysts. Less than a month after the company's shares dropped nearly 8% on news of its fourth-quarter results, RIM is back. The company stock broached its 52-week high Wednesday, up roughly 5%, to trade at $154.28, past its
previous high of $148.95 in April. "I think the reaction in the market is an understanding that the growth is stronger, competitive barriers are higher and valuation relative to earnings is lower than expected," says Mike Abramsky, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, which does not own shares or have an investment banking relationship with RIM. Even at the new high, RIM is lower than the median price target of $170 a share, according to Thomson Financial. In the last few days, RIM has launched a new phone, a sign that the company isn't letting up on innovation.
On May 3, RIM released the BlackBerry 8300 Curve phone, a version that has the multimedia capabilities of the Pearl handset as well as a full keyboard. BlackBerry Curve is expected to be available at AT&T ( T) and other carriers later this season. Curve is just the beginning of a strong product cycle, says Abramsky. RIM is expected to launch a new phone, the BlackBerry 8830 Worldphone, on Verizon ( VZ), as well as new multimedia software that could help RIM expand its market share. The BlackBerry 8830 smartphone is expected to be available in stores on May 28. The phone, with its ability to send and receive calls and email in more than 60 countries worldwide, could be a hit with Verizon's business customers. Abramsky expects Verizon to aggressively tout the phone to its users, likely driving sales of the device. RIM's bullish outlook on its analyst day also helped allay investor fears that the company could be slowing down. RIM failed to meet
sky-high investor expectations for the fourth quarter, after revenue jumped 66% to $930.4 million with earnings of 99 cents a share. That still was lower than analysts' expectations of revenue of $935.4 million on earnings of $1 a share. Subsequently, investors took the stock down to $134.10. Since then, concerns around the increased competition that RIM faces in the smartphone sector have eased a little, say analysts.
When Apple announced news of its iPhone in January, many investors believed that it would eat into the market share of cell phone makers Nokia ( NOK), Motorola ( MOT) and RIM. iPhone, which offers a touch screen instead of a keyboard and combines iPod features with those of a phone, is expected to launch toward the end of June. Some analysts believe that it could take up to two years to sort out any kinks in the iPhone and for wide consumer adoption of the device. Also, the iPhone's multimedia features are likely to appeal more to consumers rather than to business users. And that could mean that companies such as Motorola and Nokia, which have a greater stake in the consumer market, will feel the effects more than RIM, whose customers are largely businesses. Additionally, to its credit, RIM has started moving into the consumer market with the
launch of its Pearl handset. Meanwhile, one old guard, Motorola, had been distracted because of a struggle with Carl Icahn for a boardroom seat, in which the investor came up short. "People are realizing RIM's competitive advantage is likely to last for a longer period of time than they had thought," says Abramsky. "Clearly, RIM is best positioned within its group for growth."