Research In Motion Agrees to Buy Back Shares for About $79.8 Million

Research In Motion Ltd., maker of the BlackBerry smartphone, agreed to repurchase 1.53 million of its shares, for a total of about $79.8 million.

The shares represent about 0.28 percent of common shares outstanding as of June 24, RIM said today in a statement. The company is buying the stock from an unnamed third-party financial institution, according to the statement.

RIM has lost a quarter of its value since the end of March. While sales have increased, the company has lost share in the smartphone software market. Google Inc.’s Android operating system grabbed the No. 1 spot in the second quarter, pushing RIM to second place in the U.S. market, according to NPD Group Inc. As phones that run on Android make further inroads, RIM may slip further, said Chetan Sharma, an independent analyst.

“They have a fight on their hands even for a No. 3 spot,” Sharma said. The buyback is likely intended to assure investors that the company will stop the slide and remain a long-term major player in smartphones, he said.

RIM rose 1.1 percent to $55.93 in Nasdaq Stock Market trading today. The shares have dropped 17 percent this year.

At its June 24 earnings call, RIM said it repurchased 18.2 million shares, at a cost of 1.2 billion, since November. On June 24, the company authorized a repurchase of an additional 31 million shares in the next 12 months.

New Products Announced

The buyback comes on the heels of several product announcements. Yesterday, RIM introduced the BlackBerry Curve 3G, which surfs the Web faster than its predecessors. Last week, it unveiled the BlackBerry Torch, which will be available through AT&T Inc. on Aug. 12 and feature BlackBerry 6, its new operating system. The software features redesigned menus and better messaging and social-networking capabilities.

RIM has also faced increasing challenges to its expansion as some developing countries tighten restrictions on mobile e- mail. Saudi Arabia this week allowed the company to continue its service while asking RIM to create a system that lets it monitor user data. United Arab Emirates and India have expressed concern that mobile communications could be used to violate laws.

The company plans to introduce a tablet computer in November to compete with Apple Inc.’s iPad, two people familiar with RIM’s plans said last month.

To contact the reporter on this story: Olga Kharif in Portland at okharif@bloomberg.net.

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