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RIM Profit Beats Estimates; Outlook Outstrips Forecasts

CNBC.com with Wire Services
Thursday, 2 Apr 2009 | 5:53 PM ET

Research in Motion reported improved earnings that topped estimates and gave an outlook that was well ahead of analysts' forecasts. Its shares skyrocketed about 20 percent.

Solid demand for smart phones helped boost results despite the recession, RIM said. The maker of the popular BlackBerry line of handheld devices reported earnings of 90 cents a share in its fiscal fourth quarter, compared with a profit of 72 cents a share last year.

Sales for the most recent period reached $3.46 billion, against year-ago revenue of $1.883 billion.

According to a consensus estimate compiled by Thomson Reuters, RIM was seen turning in a profit of 84 cents a share on a topline of $3.4 billion.

For the current quarter, RIM said it now expects to report a profit in the range of 88 to 97 cents a share, versus analysts' view that the company would report earnings of 82 cents a share. RIM's sales estimate of between $3.3 billion and $3.5 billion also edged forecasts.

Gross margin is expected to come in between 43 and 44 percent, the company said.

Shares of RIM leaped more than 20 percent in extended trading Thursday. The stock finished the regular Nasdaq session up 7.32 percent at $48.96.

RIM said it added roughly 3.9 million new BlackBerry subscriber accounts during the quarter, bringing the total to 25 million.

"They are crushing it," Canaccord Adams analyst Peter Misek said. "Not only are they holding up, but it's clear they're gaining market share."

Analysts had expressed concern about RIM's ability to maintain momentum during the recession. Retail consumers have curbed spending, which may mean they are not willing to pay more for flashy new smartphones. But that may be coming to an end, Misek said.

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"There was a big rebound in consumer demand in mid-February,'' he said, adding BlackBerry handsets are selling well with wireless carriers such as Verizon and Vodafone .

To be sure, many corporations are cutting their budgets, which could prompt them to delay upgrading to newer BlackBerry models.

RIM's main customers have traditionally been business executives, lawyers, politicians and other professionals who use its BlackBerry handsets to send wireless email securely.

To diversify its user base, RIM has pushed aggressively into the broader consumer market with multimedia-laden handsets like the Pearl model and the touchscreen BlackBerry Storm—its answer to Apple's popular iPhone.

While the iPhone has been a hit with consumers, it has yet to gain enough traction with business users to threaten RIM's dominant position in the corporate client market.

CNBC also reported Thursday that RIM plans a new BlackBerry that will feature both a full Qwerty keypad and a touchscreen.

This week, it also launched an online store to sell entertainment, games, news and travel software to BlackBerry users.

RIM is keeping a close eye on operating expenses to make sure it can continue to thrive even if the downturn continues, RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie said during a conference call with analysts.

"RIM is faring well in the current environment and we continue to believe we can grow market share," he said. "However, we believe it is prudent to turn our attention to making sure that the operations are as streamlined as possible in case of further deterioration in the broader economy."

- Reuters and AP contributed to this report.

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