BUSINESS

RIM to wait for BB10 sales before considering any sale or partnerships: analyst

01/24/2013 03:31 EST | Updated 03/26/2013 05:12 EDT
MONTREAL - Research In Motion will likely wait to see how well its new BlackBerry 10 smartphones sell before considering any partnerships or sale of its assets, an analyst said Thursday.

Just how many consumers and businesses will make the move to BlackBerry 10 won't be clear until after this year's back-to-school and holiday seasons, said telecom analyst Troy Crandall of MacDougall, MacDougall & MacTier.

"RIM is basically launching these devices into the dead season," Crandall said, but he did note there will be initial pent-up demand after BB10 is unveiled next Wednesday.

"On the positive side they won't have a lot of competition."

BlackBerry 10 is widely seen as a make-or-break product for Research In Motion (TSX:RIM).

The Waterloo, Ont., smartphone maker has been losing market share to Apple's iPhone and smartphones with the Android operating system.

RIM's board has been reviewing its strategic options and has kept the doors open to everything from a sale of certain assets to various partnerships with other companies.

While there was a report that PC maker Lenovo Group is looking at potential acquisition targets and strategic alliances — including RIM — Crandall said it may be difficult for the Chinese company to get Canadian government approval.

Crandall noted that federal government employees in the United States, Britain and other countries still use RIM smartphones and may have security concerns about a potential Chinese buyer.

The U.S. House Intelligence Committee has said the United States should avoid doing business with Chinese telecom companies Huawei Technologies Ltd. and ZTE Corp. because of concerns over cyber espionage.

Crandall also questioned why Lenovo would have more interest now in RIM considering its share price was much lower several months ago.

Lenovo is said to be on the hunt for a mobile device maker as personal computers face more competition from smaller tablets.

Crandall also noted that 29 per cent of RIM's 524 million shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange and NASDAQ were held by short sellers, calling it a case of "extreme pessimism" about the success of BB10.

These investors have essentially bet against RIM's success and lose money when the company's stock goes up. But they can also help drive the stock price up by selling to cover their positions.

Jeffries analyst Peter Misek has raised his share price target to $19.50 based on RIM enabling BlackBerry corporate email service on iPhones and Android devices.

"We highlighted RIM's enabling of corporate email on iPhones and Android devices as a large opportunity to hold onto services revenues or generate new revenues," Misek wrote in a research note this week.

"This change we believe is unknown or not well understood, but is important."

RIM's shares have risen dramatically in recent weeks with analysts less pessimistic about RIM and giving the new operating system and smartphones some chance of success.

Shares in RIM closed up 50 cents, or 2.9 per cent, at $17.80 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on heavy volume of more than 17 million shares.