Blackberry Posts Surprise Profit, But Subscriber Base Down
BlackBerry reported a surprise quarterly profit on Thursday and said it shipped 1 million of its all-new Z10 smartphones in the period, but the company has yet to convince some investors that its turnaround plan is succeeding.
The Canadian smartphone maker's shares were up nearly 2 percent in early trading, but had jumped of more than 10 percent immediately after the results came out. Some investors focused on a decline in the company's subscriber base, a possible threat to its long-term growth prospects.
Still, the results offered solace to both bulls and bears on BlackBerry, which virtually invented on-your-hip email, but has lost market share to iPhone maker Apple and smartphones using Google Inc's Android software.
"I think the 1 million units is a nice start," said Morningstar analyst Brian Colello. "I think the encouraging thing is that BlackBerry was still able to sell a good portion of older models and generate solid service revenue during the transition. I think that will be important in terms of cash balance and profitability."
The touchscreen Z10, which uses an all-new operating system, is key to BlackBerry's revival. Its introduction a month before the end of the quarter received a warm reception in Canada and a few other countries, but the initial U.S. launch, just last week, was muted.
Some analysts said revenue missed expectations and that the decline in subscriber numbers to 76 million from 79 million during the fourth quarter ended March 2 clouded BlackBerry's long-term turnaround prospects.
The stock was up 1.9 percent at $14.83 in early trading on Nasdaq.
BlackBerry said Mike Lazaridis, who co-founded BlackBerry nearly 30 years ago, would step down as vice chairman and director. Lazaridis was co-chief executive officer until last year.
The company also surprised investors by saying it believes it will approach break-even financial results in its first quarter, based on a lower cost base, more efficient supply chain and improved hardware margins.
Analysts on average had expected a loss of 10 cents a share in the first quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
BlackBerry said net income in the fourth quarter was $98 million, or 19 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier loss of $125 million, or 24 cents a share.
Excluding one-time items, the company reported a profit of 22 cents a share. Analysts had expected a loss.
Yet the company is not out of the woods. Quarterly revenue fell to $2.68 billion from $4.2 billion a year earlier, below analysts' estimates of $2.84 billion.
"All in all, I'm happy because I think the majority seemed to be expecting the world to cave in on them, and that did not happen," said Eric Jackson, founder and managing partner of Ironfire Capital LLC, which owns BlackBerry shares.