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RIM to Add Thailand, Indonesia Stores as Asia Demand Rises

Feb. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Research In Motion Ltd. plans a campaign to increase retail outlets in Indonesia and Thailand, seeking to capitalize on rising demand for its BlackBerry smartphones in Southeast Asia and offset slumping U.S. sales.

RIM plans to have about 4,000 outlets including flagship stores, store-in-stores and kiosks across Indonesia within the next year, broadening its current footprint of four shops in Jakarta, Gregory Wade, RIM’s Asia head, said in an interview today at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. He said RIM also has “aggressive” plans to open outlets in Thailand and Malaysia.

Indonesia “is the proving ground” for an expansion across Southeast Asia, said Wade, who is based in Singapore.

The company, having been overtaken by Apple Inc.’s iPhone and devices using Google Inc.’s Android software in the U.S., is seeking to avoid the BlackBerry’s slump from spreading outside North America. RIM’s sales outside the U.K., U.S. and Canada jumped 31 percent last quarter to $3.17 billion as U.S. sales dropped 45 percent to $1.03 billion.

RIM, based in Waterloo, Ontario, fell 2.3 percent to $14.17 at the close in New York. Shares of the company, which named Thorsten Heins chief executive officer last month with the resignation of co-founders and co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, have lost 90 percent since their 2008 high.

Jakarta Rioting

Demand in markets such as Indonesia, the world’s fourth-most populous country with about 248 million people, is being driven by a BlackBerry feature that lets users send instant messages for free.

Still, the BlackBerry’s boom in the region has had some hiccups. At an event at Jakarta’s Pacific Place shopping mall on Nov. 25, when RIM made the global debut of its BlackBerry Bold 9790, rioting broke out among customers hoping to be among those to get a discounted price for the smartphone. In the ensuing scuffles, at least 10 people went to hospital to be treated for injuries.

The event was a promotion at the luxury shopping mall, rather than a BlackBerry store opening, Wade said, stressing that RIM has learned from the experience and “has made every effort” to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

The company opened a new 149-square meter store in Jakarta’s Gandaria shopping district last week, which “went off without a hitch,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Hugo Miller in Barcelona at hugomiller@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Elstrom at pelstrom@bloomberg.net

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