TORONTO - Shares of BlackBerry (TSX:BB) rose nearly six per cent on Thursday following an upgrade of the company's stock rating from Societe Generale on better-than-expected sales of the company's new smartphones.

Analyst Andy Perkins boosted the smartphone maker to a "buy" from a "sell," saying that the phones have been "selling well."

BlackBerry shares closed up 83 cents at $14.70 on the Toronto Stock Exchange, near the highs of the day but still below their 52-week high of $18.49.

"Our base case scenario now assumes that the new handset sales have been faster than we previously assumed," Perkins wrote in a note.

"Putting the prices into context, the new Blackberry handsets are holding up reasonably well against a number of recently released handsets."

Perkins expects the company to sell more than four million of its BlackBerry Z10 touchscreen devices in the first quarter, based on checks within phone sellers.

That number would be on top of the one million sold in the fourth-quarter when the touchscreen phones hadn't debuted in many countries, including the crucial U.S. market.

Meanwhile, Perkins predicts BlackBerry will sell one million of its Q10 keyboard devices in the period.

BlackBerry will include official sales figures when its reports first-quarter earnings June 28.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story: A previous version misspelled "Generale" in paragraph 1

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