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A man fixes a Blackberry phone for his client in his store in Jakarta in this April 17, 2012 file photo. (SUPRI/REUTERS)
A man fixes a Blackberry phone for his client in his store in Jakarta in this April 17, 2012 file photo. (SUPRI/REUTERS)

RIM shares down nearly 20% as turnaround looks unlikely Add to ...

Analysts and investors hammered Canada's most well-known technology company Friday, as the list of people who believe in a turnaround at the BlackBerry maker gets smaller and smaller.

RIM shares plunged after the company posted fiscal first-quarter results Thursday that fell far short of already low expectations among analysts.

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The company posted a net loss of $518-million (U.S.), or 99 cents a share. Revenue dropped by 33 per cent from the previous quarter, to $2.8-billion. BlackBerry shipments also dropped during the same period to 7.8 million, from 13.2 million.

In addition, RIM will slash 5,000 jobs – almost one-third of its total workforce – to cut costs.

But perhaps the most worrying news for investors was the announcement that the company will once again miss its own launch date for the next generation of BlackBerry smartphones, dubbed BlackBerry 10. Originally set to launch early this year, the phones were pushed back to this fall. Now, they won't be released until early next year, the company said.

The delay is a huge negative for the company because RIM is pinning all its turnaround hopes on the BB10. And while consumers wait for the new, more powerful phones to hit stores, fewer and fewer of them are buying current-generation BlackBerrys.

On Friday, few analysts were buying RIM's promise of a BB10-fuelled turnaround.

"While RIM management remains committed to launching new BlackBerry 10 smartphones, we do not believe BB10 devices will turn around its struggling business," Canaccord Genuity technology analyst Michael Walkley said.

"With increased competition and a very low probability the market will support RIM’s new mobile computing ecosystem, we believe RIM will need to sell the company."

Mr. Walkley added that his checks indicate RIM's hardware business is now generating negative a gross margin, as Apple Inc.'s iPhone and a slew of phones running on Google Inc.'s Android operating system ratchet up the competition in the market.

Bernstein Research analyst Pierre Ferragu said he expects RIM to lose money every quarter of this year - the company has already conceded it will probably post another operating loss next quarter, and that the next few quarters will be "very challenging."

On Friday, Mr. Ferragu cut his price target for the company in half, from $16 to $8. He said the company's valuable assets and high levels of cash mean the fundamental negative trajectory is unlikely to change without a drastic shift in strategy.

"RIM continues to plan the launch of a new smartphone platform by year end, which sounds to us like a suicidal strategy in today’s environment," Mr. Ferragu said. "Apple and Android will be stronger than ever in the second half of the year, and the fate of Nokia, in its attempts to launch an alternative mobile platform based on quality products clearly indicates where all this is likely to end for RIM."

On Friday, RIM shares plunged nearly 20 per cent, closing on Nasdaq at $7.39, a new 52-week low. During the same 52-week period, RIM's share price high was $33.54. The company's all-time share price high, reached in 2008, was more than $140.

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