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Business Briefing

BlackBerry restarts rollout of BBM for iPhone, Android Add to ...

These are stories Report on Business is following Monday, Oct. 21, 2013.

Follow Michael Babad and The Globe's Business Briefing on Twitter.

BBM rollout back on
BlackBerry Ltd. says it’s back on track and is resuming the rollout of its popular chat app for iPhone and Android devices.

“In the next few hours, people will start seeing BBM in Google Play, the App Store and in select Samsung App Stores – where it will be free to download,” BlackBerry's Andrew Bocking, who runs BBM, said today on its official blog.

“The demand for BBM on Android and BBM on iPhone continues to be amazing,” he added.

“About 6 million people signed up for information about BBM at BBM.com. As you know, in just seven hours, about 1 million Android users were using the unreleased version of BBM for Android. What you don’t know is that more than 1 million people have found creative ways to ‘side load’ BBM on their iPhone. This is incredible.”

The rollout of the BBM app for rival smartphones suffered a setback in late September when an unreleased version for Android was posted online.

BlackBerry today unveiled a “simple line-up system” for the rollout to help manage the “pent-up” demand.

That involves downloading BBM, entering an e-mail address after installing the app to “hold your spot in line,” and awaiting an e-mail from BlackBerry that will let users know when they’re at the front of that line.

Those who signed up ahead of time won’t have that wait.

And, Mr. Bocking told those wanting BBM, “if you didn’t sign up in advance, don’t worry – we are focused on moving millions of customers through the line as fast as possible.”

BlackBerry, of course, is in the midst of an auction for all or part of the company. It has signed a letter of intent with Canada’s Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. for a $4.7-billion (U.S.) deal that would pay shareholders $9 a share.

Other parties have expressed interest, however, including U.S. private equity firm Cerberus, China’s Lenovo Group and BlackBerry co-founders Mike Laziridis and Doug Fregin.

Apple in spotlight tomorrow
The Globe and Mail's Omar El Akkad previews tomorrow's Apple Inc. unveiling of a refreshed iPad. Here's what you need to know.

Netflix surges
Shares of Netflix Inc. surged in after-hours action today after the Internet-based video company posted a jump in subscribers in the third quarter.

The stock jumped about 10 per cent after the markets closed, reaching about $390 (U.S.) soon after the report.

Netflix, whose original offerings included the hit House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, posted a hefty jump in quarterly profit to $32-million or 52 cents a share, compared to $8-million or 13 cents a year earlier.

Revenue surged to $701-million from $556-million as Netflix reported it now has U.S. members numbering 31 million and international members numbering 9.2 million.

That saw Netflix add 1.3 million subscribers in the United States and 1.4 million in other markets.

“We are very pleased to have over 40 million members, up from less than 30 million just one year ago,” chief executive officer Reed Hastings and chief financial officer David Wells said in a note to shareholders.

“We have done well but we have a long way to go to match HBO’s 114-million global member count or their well-deserved Emmy award leadership,” they added.

“Title by title, device by device, member by member, award by award, country by country, we are making progress.”

Netflix also projected profit of $29-million to $45-million, or 47 cents to 73 cents, in the fourth quarter, and total members of up to 33.5 million in the United States and up to 10.9 million in other countries.

Maple Leaf could sell bakery stake
Maple Leafs Foods Inc. says it’s looking at alternatives for its bakery business, and could sell its 90-per-cent stake in Canada Bread Co.

The Canadian food company said it recently reviewed its bakery business to determine how to drive growth, but before pumping money in wants to look at other options, including such a sale.

It expects to decide by early next year, The Globe and Mail’s Jacquie McNish and Eric Atkins report.

“There are significant growth opportunities in the baked goods sector that may be pursued, either as part of Maple Leaf or under new ownership,” Maple Leaf said.

“Maple Leaf believes that either outcome would result in a strong commitment to realizing the full potential of this business.”

Canada Bread, whose brands include Dempster’s, said it’s forming a special committee of independent directors in connection with the possible sale.

Google at $1,000
I'll bet Google Inc. co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin had a great weekend: After Friday's surge in the Internet giant's stock price, according to Forbes, they added almost $6-billion between them to their net worth.

Google shares cracked $1,000 after it posted a surge in third-quarter profit and revenue, with a nice showing on paid clicks.

Profit climbed to almost $3-billion or $8.75 a share, while revenue jumped 12 per cent to $14.9-billion.

Shares climbed dipped today, but remained above the $1,000 mark they cracked last week, raising questions about what’s next for the Internet giant.

Analysts have boosted their price target on Google shares, suggesting further moves in its meteoric rise.

“We  continue to view Google as one of the best-positioned in our space to benefit from the proliferation of connected devices and the ensuing lift in engagement,” said Credit Suisse analyst Stephen Ju, who raised his target on the stock to $1,200 from $1,000.

“And we view the volume growth as a leading indicator of where its top line growth can go as pricing on mobile will eventually close the gap with desktop.”

Canaccord Genuity analyst Michael Graham, in turn, hiked his price target to $1,000 from $940 after Google’s earnings.

Key for this week
There’s much to chew on for investors this week, from earnings to the economy.

Front and centre will be a flood of quarterly corporate reports, and a policy statement and monetary policy report from the Bank of Canada.

Several Canadian resource companies will unveil their latest earnings reports, as will the railways.

As The Globe and Mail’s Rachelle Younglai reports, the country’s miners will begin reporting what’s expected to be poor third-quarter results, but with a glimmer of hope.

And as Carrie Tait writes, Encana Corp. could go so far as to cut its dividend when it reports results on Wednesday.

Then there are the railways, Canadian National Railway Co. and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd., which face challenges from higher pensions costs to strained labour relations, Bertrand Marotte reports. CN reports tomorrow, and CP on Wednesday.

Also watch for Thursday’s report from Microsoft Corp., which, as Omar El Akkad writes, is in the midst of a shift to mobile.

Several U.S. companies also report earnings this week. According to Derek Holt and Dov Zigler of Bank of Nova Scotia, 70 per cent of the 100 S&P 500 companies that have posted results to date have topped analysts’ profit estimates, while 55 per cent have eclipsed the sales forecasts.

On the economic front, governor Stephen Poloz and his colleagues at the Bank of Canada meet this week, and are expected to trim their growth forecast when they release their statement and monetary policy report on Wednesday.

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