Thousands of jobs cut; Blackberry 10 delayed

Research In Motion is delaying the launch of its much anticipated BlackBerry 10 handset until next year and cutting 5,000 jobs as it restructures operations, the troubled smartphone company said Thursday.

TORONTO — Research In Motion is delaying the launch of its much anticipated BlackBerry 10 handset until next year and cutting 5,000 jobs as it restructures operations, the troubled smartphone company said Thursday.

The launch of BlackBerry 10, seen as key to the recovery of the company, had been expected later this year and will now miss the important holiday shopping season.

“This was a challenging quarter for the company on many fronts and I’m not satisfied with the financial performance we are reporting,” chief executive Thorsten Heins said on a conference call.

“I want to assure you that we are not standing still, and that we are continuing to accelerate our focus on our key initiatives.”

Heins said the company’s top priority is the launch of the first BlackBerry 10 device, which it has pushed to the first quarter of calendar 2013.

The company (TSX:RIM) also plans to simplify its operations, which includes cutting back on the number of different BlackBerry devices on the market, as well as reducing its “layers of management” and outsourcing more of its non-core functions.

Heins told investors on a conference call that many of wireless carriers actually prefer that the company launch its new devices in the first-quarter of next year because faster networks will be in place.

RIM shares plunged 16 per cent in after-hours trading on the Nasdaq, losing US$1.50 to US$7.63. Shares closed up two cents at C$9.46 on the Toronto Stock Exchange in regular hours trading Thursday.

The job cuts will rollout over the rest of the fiscal year, Heins said, but he noted the company intends to “notify those affected as quickly as possible.”

The company, which reports in U.S. dollars, announced the cuts and delays as it reported a loss of US$518 million or 99 cents per share for its latest quarter. The loss compared with a profit of $695 million or $1.33 per share a year ago.

Revenue for the three months fell to $2.81 billion from $4.91 billion.

Excluding one-time items including a non-cash charge to goodwill, the company said it lost $192 million or 37 cents per share diluted.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected RIM to post a loss of a three cents per share, while its revenues will fall about 37 per cent to $3.1 billion.

During the quarter, RIM shipped 7.8 million BlackBerry smartphones and approximately 260,000 BlackBerry PlayBook tablets.

In its outlook, the company said it expects the next several quarters to continue to be very challenging for its business.

RIM said it expects to report a further operating loss in the second quarter of fiscal 2013, as RIM continues to invest in marketing programs and continues to work through the transition to BlackBerry 10.

“I understand that this is an incredibly difficult message to deliver, but it is necessary,” Heins said.

“We have a strong balance sheet which we’re committed to maintaining.”

Uncertainty has engulfed the future of RIM in recent months as speculation swirls over whether the company could be bought, or forced to sell off certain pieces of its operations to survive.

The company has been strongly criticized for delaying BB10, but executives have insisted they want to get this right rather than face an onslaught of bad reviews, like those that came after it rushed the releases of the BlackBerry Storm touch screen and the PlayBook tablet.

The postponed launch date for BlackBerry 10 will mean the company will miss the crucial September launch season when many smartphones hit the market in an attempt to grab the attention of students heading back to school as well as the holiday shopping rush.

BlackBerry 10 will also arrive to market after the latest update to Apple’s iPhone, which is expected later this year, and numerous new smartphone’s using Google’s Android operating system this fall.

Executives at RIM have said the company intends to focus more on its enterprise business, or the big companies that buy smartphones in large quantities. Still, many of its sneak previews of the BB10 system have focused on flashy applications and features more akin to the consumer market, such as photo editing software and games.

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