Storm sales provide sunny outlook for RIM

Research In Motion announced financial results on Thursday that matched a warning it gave earlier this month, but executives said sales of the BlackBerry Storm touch-screen handset and other new products are brightening the company’s future.

RIM now is struggling to keep up with demand for the Storm, though executives said on a conference call that supply problems should clear up in the coming weeks. Along with the Storm, the recently introduced BlackBerry Bold (see Bold video) and BlackBerry Curve 8900 are also selling strongly, the company said.

RIM’s revenue in the third quarter ended Nov. 29 was US$2.78 billion, up 66 percent from a year earlier. Net income was $396.3 million, or $0.69 per share, up from $370.5 million or $0.65 per share a year earlier. Adjusted earnings, excluding the effect of the Canadian dollar’s depreciation on RIM’s tax rate, were $0.83 per share.

The profit met analysts’ expectations compiled by Thomson Financial, while revenue was slightly below the consensus estimate of $2.82 billion. But RIM had lowered its own forecast for the quarter on Dec. 3. Thursdays results were in line with that forecast.

The quarter was hurt by the economic downturn, but also by delays in the release of the BlackBerry Storm. When that phone finally went on sale Nov. 21, customers lined up outside many Verizon stores, and net subscriber additions for BlackBerry devices hit record levels in the U.S. The device is also offered by Vodafone UK. The Storm is expanding the market for RIM, with more than 70 percent of the new devices being sold to first-time BlackBerry users, the company said.

Largely on the strength of those products, RIM forecast a big jump in revenue in the current quarter to between $3.3 billion and $3.5 billion. A high percentage of those sales is already booked, executives said. The popularity of the new models will also drive up the average selling price of RIM’s products to $370 from $337 in this quarter. Earnings per share in the current quarter should be between $0.83 and $0.91, the company forecast.

RIM is well-equipped to take advantage of a shift in the industry toward smartphones, executives said. Another smartphone maker, Palm, is having less success with the trend. On Thursday, Palm reported revenue in its fiscal second quarter, ended Nov. 30, of $191.6 million. That was down from $349.6 million a year earlier.

Palm sold 599,000 smartphones in the quarter, down 13 percent from a year earlier, and revenue from smartphones fell 39 percent. The company reported a net loss of $508.6 million, or $4.64 per share. Not counting a tax-related charge and other special items, Palm lost $80.2 million or $0.73 per share. Analysts had estimated a loss of $0.38 per share on revenue of $214 million.

“We’re working through an undeniably difficult period,” Palm President and CEO Ed Colligan said in a prepared statement. The company is now gearing up for the release of a new Linux-based operating system, code-named Nova, which reportedly may be unveiled at the International Consumer Electronics Show to be held next month in Las Vegas.

RIM’s shares (Nasdaq: RIMM) were up $0.31 at $38.75 in after-hours trading late Thursday. Palm (Nasdaq: PALM) was down $0.03 at $2.17, also in after-hours trading.

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