If you're looking for BlackBerry Ltd. to finally turn the corner, Friday morning's earnings report might not be the moment to tune in, according to analyst expectations.
Sentiment is mixed, particularly on the long term outlook of the Waterloo, Ont. technology company, but most agree that revenues will miss again, most likely thanks to slow hardware sales of the new Classic handset.
BlackBerry is still making about 46 per cent of its revenue on hardware, but that ratio might have slipped as several key markets didn't get shipments of the Classic until halfway through the fourth quarter. A report from Morgan Stanley suggested BlackBerry may have sold only 8,000 Classics in the United States during the quarter, though its global hardware sales may have topped 1.5 million.
Results are expected before markets open Friday. Analysts expect a loss of 4 cents per share and revenue of $802-million. Shares are down 4.7 per cent in the last five days on the Nasdaq and 15.8 per cent in 2015 so far.
In the third quarter BlackBerry surprised analysts by being cashflow positive, after six quarters of bleeding money, even as it missed revenue targets. Some analysts, including TD Securities Inc., expect the company will be cashflow positive again thanks to Mr. Chen's cost-cutting efforts.
"We are a little ahead of our two-year turnaround and strategy," Mr. Chen told reporters earlier this month at the Mobile World Congress convention in Barcelona.
The main area of concern for BlackBerry watchers is Mr. Chen's target to earn $500-million through its software business in 2015. To hit that number it needs its hardware customers or corporate IT buyers (who manage fleets of different devices these days) to pay for service add-ons like high-security messaging service BBM Protected, or the Gold Level premium version of its enterprise management software.
Right now, there are a decent number of subscribers signed up for the EZ Pass device management system, as it was offered free to customers for a year. That trial period is ending, and Citi analysts believe that most customers are letting EZ Pass lapse rather than paying to upgrade. What's more, "our checks indicate that BBRY may not be enforcing the Feb. 1 start date for required maintenance payment, implying the licence total may stay artificially high while [services] revenue does not grow," analyst Ehud Gelblum wrote.
Morgan Stanley, which titled its research note "At this rate, it won't even be close," suggested that 50 per cent of EZ Pass customers are not renewing.
BlackBerry has also committed to launching four new handsets in the remainder of 2015, which might be seen as a distraction from the software mission. However, most analysts agree the company will need a boost to reach Mr. Chen's goal of selling 10 million devices a year, especially since the first new device of his tenure – the boxy, unorthodox Passport – has not sparked consumer interest.