TORONTO - Shares of Research In Motion Ltd. (TSX:RIM) were down sharply Monday amid reports the BlackBerry maker was considering a plan to split itself into two — reports the company dismissed as it said it remains committed to turning itself around.
"RIM has hired advisers to help the company examine ways to leverage the BlackBerry platform through partnerships, licensing opportunities and strategic business model alternatives," RIM said in a statement.
"As (CEO) Thorsten (Heins) said on the company's fourth-quarter earnings call: 'We believe the best way to drive value for our stakeholders is to execute on our plan to turn the company around. This remains true."
Shares in RIM were down 5.7 per cent, or 58 cents, at $9.54 on the Toronto Stock Exchange in Monday morning trading — a level not seen since November 2003.
At its height the stock was trading at more than $148 in 2008, when RIM was briefly the most valuable company on the Toronto exchange.
Speculation that RIM may be sold or broken up increased earlier this year after the company hired JPMorgan Chase & Co. and RBC Capital Markets to help evaluate its strategic options.
The Sunday Times newspaper, which did not cite sources, reported RIM was considering selling its handset manufacturing unit or a stake in the whole company.
The report came ahead of RIM's latest quarterly earnings report, which is expected Thursday.
The average analyst estimate is for a profit of a penny per share and $3.13 billion in revenue, according to those surveyed by Thomson Reuters.
RIM began cutting jobs last week as part of a plan to find $1 billion in savings by the end of its 2013 financial year.
The company is expected to provide a business update when it reports its first-quarter results.
RIM has been working to turn around operations after watching its market share eroded by the growing popularity of Apple's iPhone and smartphones running Google's Android operating system.
The company hopes the debut of its BlackBerry 10 operating system and a new line of BlackBerry smartphones will help keep its subscribers from defecting to other devices, particularly in the United States.
However, speculation has been growing that RIM's efforts are too little too late, and that the BlackBerry maker could ultimately be sold off.
Market Share Eroding
RIM experienced trouble competing in the U.S. smartphone market in early 2011 and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/03/rim-market-share_n_871129.html?ir=Canada" target="_hplink">dropped from second place to third</a>, as Google's Android and Apple's iPhone gathered steam. The company's shares decreased 40 per cent in value since February,<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/03/rim-market-share_n_871129.html?ir=Canada" target="_hplink"> Reuters reported in June</a>.
When facing leaner times in July, the struggling tech company <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/07/25/rim-to-cut-2000-jobs_n_908392.html" target="_hplink">announced its plan to cut 11 per cent of its workforce</a>, or about 2,000 employees, in an attempt to scale back.
To add insult to injury, millions of BlackBerry users around the world <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/12/blackberry-outage-rim_n_1006691.html?ir=Canada" target="_hplink">experienced network outages</a>, resulting in messaging and browsing delays in October 2011. Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/10/13/rim-blackberry-outage_n_1008424.html" target="_hplink">posted an apology to YouTube</a> promising improvements to the system.
Following disappointing PlayBook sales resulting in <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/12/02/rim-playbook-485-million-charge_n_1125380.html" target="_hplink">huge profit losses</a>, RIM <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/28/blackberry-playbook-best-buy_n_1116532.html?ir=Canada" target="_hplink">slashed its tablet prices down to $199</a>, which prompted a major pre-Christmas rush. However, customers became outraged when Best Buy, unable to keep up with demand, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/28/blackberry-playbook-best-buy_n_1116532.html?ir=Canada" target="_hplink">reportedly cancelled existing orders and removed the PlayBook from its website</a> when it ran out of stock. In early January, RIM <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/03/blackberry-playbook-price-rim_n_1181167.html?ir=Canada" target="_hplink">put its struggling PlayBook tablet on sale</a> again in the U.S. for $299.
Mere days before RIM named Thorsten Heins as its new CEO, Samsung <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/17/samsung-rim-buyout_n_1210958.html?ir=Canada" target="_hplink">denied rumours</a> that it planned to purchase RIM or license its operating system, causing RIM shares to dip.
May was not a kind month to RIM. Soon after the<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/05/28/karima-bawa-research-in-motion_n_1550984.html" target="_hplink"> departure of the company's chief legal officer</a>, Karima Bawa, the company announced that it would hiring two financial firms to advise on the company's financial performance.
If the announcement of the necessary outside help wasn't bad enough, numerous reports surfaced regarding RIM's massive layoffs during the end of May. The cuts were estimated at laying off <a href="http://www.ottawacitizen.com/business/layoffs+could+many+employees/6689699/story.html" target="_hplink">anywhere from 2000 - 6000 workers.</a>