SAN FRANCISCO --
Research In Motion's
star may have been eclipsed in the last few weeks as the drumbeat around
new iPhone reached a crescendo, but RIM is set to return to the spotlight.
It has been a quiet three months for the company -- with no new smart phones hitting the market -- yet RIM is expected to beat first-quarter estimates Wednesday, on the strength of its existing models such as the Pearl and the Curve.
In the first quarter, analysts expect RIM to report earnings of 85 cents a share on revenue of $2.27 billion, compared with earnings of 39 cents a share on revenue of $1.08 billion, a year ago.
But it's the company's guidance for the current quarter that analysts and portfolio managers will be closely watching. Last month,
that it will release the BlackBerry Bold, its answer to Apple's upcoming 3G iPhone, this quarter.
on the BlackBerry Bold.)
RIM hasn't offered a launch date for the product, but Mike Abramsky, an analyst at RBC Capital, expects the device to start shipping on
network in late July or early August.
The New Blackberry Bold Is Smokin'
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RIM's second-quarter guidance could offer clues on how early the BlackBerry Bold will ship and how it could affect the company's fortunes, says Romeo Dator, co-portfolio manager of the
All American Equity Fund
, which has RIM as one of its holdings.
"What the market will be focusing on is the guidance, and that needs to reflect that RIM won't be late in shipping the Bold," says Dator.
For the second quarter, RIM is estimated to report EPS of 90 cents on revenue of $2.43 billion, up from EPS of 50 cents on revenue of $1.37 billion, the year before.
Analysts will also be watching for new subscriber additions in the quarter and whether RIM can beat its guidance of 2.2 million new users in the quarter.
A recurring fear for many company-watchers has been that turmoil in the financial services sector and a slowdown in IT spending by businesses could take its toll on RIM's growth. RIM has a strong base of corporate users and any hints of a slowdown in the company's revenue could significantly shake up investors, says Dator.
Shares of RIM have gained about 25% in the last three months, nearly the same as rival Apple, even as competitors such as
have lost their appeal. Shares of Motorola were down about 23% and Nokia shed about 21.5% during the same period.
RIM's stock closed down $2.73, or 1.9%, to $140.33 Tuesday.
There's still room for upside in RIM shares, says Dator, who believes the stock could go up to $160 to $175 over the next few months. "It's an expensive stock with high expectations," he says. "But as long as they can continue to grow 35% to 40%, they deserve the premium valuation."
RIM's stock price has soared after its earnings report in each of the last four quarters. Last quarter, the stock closed up 6% the day after the company reported its results. In the quarter before that, shares were up 10.9% following the results.
RIM's guidance for the second quarter may get even more of a boost on better-than-expected uptake of the phone through AT&T competitor
, says Rob Sanderson, an analyst with independent research firm American Technology Research, in a note.
"We expect strength at Verizon will continue through the summer and believe it is about to surpass AT&T as RIM's largest channel," says Sanderson.
RIM could also see greater sales of its products in Europe, he says.
Meanwhile, increasing competition could actually help RIM gather a greater market share, especially at the cost of companies such as
, says Dator.
It's going to be a much more competitive market for RIM this year, and the company will have to step up its game, says Dator.
But it is the other smartphone makers that could come under pressure as analysts bet RIM will launch more new phones this year, including a touch-screen BlackBerry and new versions of its hit Pearl, among others. These new products could act as a catalyst for RIM, boosting users and helping the company stay ahead -- even as RIM continues to expand its international footprint, especially in Asia.