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(Richard Drew)
(Richard Drew)

Earnings

RIM under pressure for Torch to shine Add to ...

RIM reports its second-quarter results this Thursday, at a time when a growing chorus of analysts is turning sour on the smart phone maker.

The Waterloo, Ont.-based company will be under massive pressure to show positive numbers heading into the important holiday-shopping season. Investors and analysts will specifically be looking at early sales numbers from RIM's newest smart phone, the Torch.

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According to Thomson Reuters, analysts expect second-quarter share profit of $1.33 (U.S.), up from $1.03 during the same period last year.

The Torch is RIM's most aggressive entry into the fast-growing consumer smart phone market, and is largely aimed at stealing customers and attention away from competitors such as Apple Inc.

But as of late, a number of analysts have become more vocal about their low expectations for RIM.

On Wednesday, Colin Gillis of BGC Financial initiated coverage of the company with a "sell" rating. Mr. Gillis said competition from Apple's iPhone and a host of smart phones running on Google's Android operating system point to a "slow fade" for RIM's traditionally dominant position in the market.

"We have respect for [RIM's]historical success, but the company's core strengths of security, keyboard, compression, and battery life have a diminishing appeal to both consumer and enterprise customers in a brutally competitive and rapidly evolving smart phone market, in our opinion," Mr. Gillis wrote.

Also this week, Pierre Ferragu of Bernstein Research released the results of a survey of 200 companies in the United States and the United Kingdom. The survey showed almost 75 per cent of firms whose employees use BlackBerrys already allow non-BlackBerry mobile e-mail as well - a significant threat to RIM's years of dominance in the enterprise smart phone space.

Rising competition in the enterprise space comes at a bad time for RIM. The company spent a considerable portion of the summer in a war of words with several foreign governments, which complained BlackBerry encryption was too strong and posed a national security risk. The continuing feud put RIM at risk of having some of its flagship services, such as e-mail, banned in important overseas markets, including Saudi Arabia and India. The company will almost certainly face some questions about the state of its negotiations with those governments when it posts results this week.

However, not all analysts are convinced RIM's market position is deteriorating. UBS analyst Phillip Huang said in a note Friday that his channel checks indicate the Torch is the second-most-popular phone at AT&T, following the iPhone. Mr. Huang, who rates RIM's stock a "neutral," said new product launches will prove key to analyst guidance for the company. Specifically, observers will be on the lookout for a second touch-screen smart phone to follow the Torch, and the much-rumoured "BlackPad," RIM's answer to Apple's iPad tablet computer. However RIM hasn't confirmed the existence of either product.

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