NEWS

RIM to woo testy shareholders at annual meeting

07/10/2012 05:39 EDT | Updated 09/09/2012 05:12 EDT
Research In Motion faces another hurdle on its long march back to prominence on Tuesday — a room full of shareholders eager to hear how the fallen tech darling plans to get back into their good graces.

CEO Thorsten Heins and his executive team will host the company's annual general meeting in Waterloo, Ont. The company's share price and market share were eroding even before Heins took over the reins from co-founders Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis earlier this year.

But the company's descent accelerated after RIM posted an operational loss of more than $500 million last quarter. Worse still was the announcement that BlackBerry 10, the next generation operating system that RIM has been touting as its saviour for more than a year, will be delayed past the key holiday shopping season and now won't arrive until sometime in early 2013.

Although Heins delivered a public relations blitz last week, asking for patience while the company implements its plan, Tuesday's meeting will be many investors' first chance to meet and speak with the executive team.

"This is the one time when shareholders can actually get their voice heard," Northern Securities analyst Sameet Kanade said. "I'd be surprised if there weren't any backlash."

Last July, then CEO Jim Balsillie stood before concerned shareholders and declared that the company's stock price — stagnating at near $30 a share — was being unfairly valued and due for a strong rebound.

The decline in the company's stock price since then has been remarkable. From a high of $148 a share in June 2008, RIM has shed more than 90 per cent of its value as its market share has dwindled to a tenth of North American smartphone sales last quarter. The stock closed Monday at $7.80 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Aside from the consumer market, the company also faces an uphill battle to convince software developers it's worth their while to develop applications that will run on the BlackBerry 10 platform. Tuesday's meeting will be key to those efforts, too.

The meeting is unlikely to produce a major policy change from the company, but rather lay out how the company plans to operate over the next year.

"What people are going to be looking for, at least from the investors, is a short-term and a long-term strategic plan that is credible and that they can achieve," said Zeus Kerravala, a telecom equipment analyst at ZK Research in Boston.

"What I'd be asking for is, give me some indicators to look for in the next few quarters that they're moving in the right direction."

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