BlackBerry CEO Asks Investors for Patience in Turnaround

BlackBerry Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Thorsten Heins asked investors for patience at the company’s annual meeting today, following a surprise quarterly loss last month that raised concerns about its turnaround.

The company only introduced its new line of BlackBerry 10 devices about five months ago, and early sales aren’t an indication of its long-term prospects, he said at the meeting, held in BlackBerry’s hometown of Waterloo, Ontario. The new flagship Z10 phone missed estimates in its first full quarter on sale, contributing to a 28 percent stock plunge on June 28.

“BlackBerry is still in the early phases of our transition,” Heins said. “This isn’t just the launch of a new product but a whole new platform. While many will judge us on the basis of one quarter of a single product, we are not a devices-only product.”

While Heins returned the company to profit two quarters ago by squeezing out more than $1 billion in operating costs, BlackBerry swung back to a loss last quarter and expects more red ink in the current period. The shares’ tumble after last month’s earnings was the steepest drop in 13 years and reversed a rally in the stock that began last September.

The Z10 -- more than two years in the making and designed to win over the touch-screen users of Apple Inc.’s iPhone and Samsung Electronics Co.’s Galaxy lineup -- sold almost a million units fewer than analysts had projected last quarter. Now BlackBerry is counting on the Q10, a model with a physical keyboard that was introduced in the U.S. in June, to appeal to the dwindling base of customers who favor that design.

Subscriber Decline

BlackBerry’s worldwide subscriber base slipped to 72 million last quarter, from 76 million and 79 million in the preceding quarters. BlackBerry’s share of the global smartphone market fell to 2.9 percent in March as it was bumped into fourth place by Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Phone platform, according to research firm IDC. Apple’s iOS and Google Inc.’s Android operating system, used by Samsung, together accounted for 92 percent of the market.

At today’s meeting, shareholders also voted to officially change the company’s name from Research In Motion Ltd. to BlackBerry Ltd. -- a move intended to simplify its branding and marketing.

BlackBerry shares rose 2.8 percent to $9.82 at 11:29 a.m. in New York. The stock had fallen 20 percent this year through yesterday.

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