Research in Motion (RIMM) has been able to keep dry of the economic downpour for months, but it finally got its shoes wet in its second fiscal quarter ended Sept 1.
RIM notched a 22-cent loss as it wrote down $23 million in accounts receivable and inventory tied up in flailing reseller
. RIM slashed $10 million out of its revenue estimates for each of the upcoming third and fourth quarters related to the data network operator, and took out what little Motient revenue it factored in to fiscal 2003 numbers. RIM management prepared the Street for losses in the quarters to come.
Motient announced plans to lay off 25% of its staff, cancel a merger with
and restructure the repayment of $20.5 million in interest payments on Monday, putting its ability to survive into doubt. Setting aside Motient's downward pull, RIM beat Street estimates by a penny with 5-cent-a-share earnings, but missed analysts' expectations of $83 million in revenue, as gathered by Thomson Financial/First Call, with $80.1 million. The revenue figure met RIM's guidance from July, back when RIM was able to cast off concerns about enterprise budgets.
Further corporate spending constraints and pushouts in the deployment of mobile communications networks that RIM hopes to run on caused management to tone down estimates for the rest of fiscal 2002. RIM anticipates that revenue will fall in the third quarter to $70 million to $75 million -- in July it expected the quarter to feature $95 million to $105 million in revenue -- with the fourth quarter struggling back up to current levels of $80 million to $85 million in sales. The company doesn't expect its gross margin to suffer, but to remain in the high 30% range and as high as 40% in fiscal 2003.
But as RIM spends more on marketing to reach out to its European carrier customers such as BT Cellnet and continues to invest in research and development, the company expects to dip into the red. RIM CFO Dennis Kavelman projected an operating loss of 6 cents to 9 cents in the third quarter and 8 cents to 12 cents in the fourth quarter. Don't forget that RIM still had $673 million in cash and short-term investments at the end of the quarter, so small quarterly losses will not be an immediate threat to the company's health.
Kavelman used somber tones to describe some of the negative developments in the quarter -- as layoffs in the financial sector and curbed IT spending caused 12,000 users to give up their BlackBerry pagers. RIM added 48,000 new BlackBerry users, for 36,000 net additions on the quarter and a new total of 246,000 BlackBerry fans. But co-CEO Jim Balsillie applauded RIM's delivery of devices to BT Cellnet on time for launch during the quarter.
Balsillie also reported with satisfaction on what he called "organizer" competitors' delays -- Palm pushed back the debut of a BlackBerry-like device from the fourth quarter of 2001 to an unannounced later date. He also mentioned mobile-phone companies' difficulty in duplicating RIM's easy wireless email capability as a sign that his company has a strong competitive advantage. But he acknowledged that RIM is waging its own fight against the clock as it takes longer than he expected to make deals with other carrier partners to roll out RIM devices on networks, as it has with BT CellNet.