Analysts Doubt CEO Can Change RIM Direction
Special to CNBC.com
The analyst jury is still out on whether Research in Motion can turn its fortunes around after its chief operating officer became CEO when the co-chief executives stepped down.
RIM's falling stock shows that investors are realizing "this is a bit of shuffling the chairs on the Titanic," Robert W. Baird senior analyst William Power told CNBC Monday, the day the company announced changes in the C-Suite. "The company faces enormous challenges, but the strategy hasn’t changed to address those challenges."
RIM is banking on a line of BlackBerry 10 devices, but those won't be available until the second half of this year, he said, and it's "too early to call if those devices will resurrect the prospects of this company or not."
Thorsten Heins, the company's new CEO, provides a "fresh face" and brings some operational expertise, said Power, who thinks it unlikely the company will be a takeover target.
In an earlier CNBC interview, Heins said he will hire a chief marketing officer to improve the company's public relations. Power said this is something the company needs to do.
"Then we will communicate and talk to our customers — consumer audiences — much more than we did in the past," Heins said. "We need to talk about BlackBerry, what we provide, show how great the user experience is and get the word out."
In a separate interview, Shaw Wu, Sterne Agee senior technology analyst, said he wondered at the timing of the executive shift.
"I think people are agreeing that this is somewhat surprising and abrupt in terms of the timing," he said.
RIM must maintain its existing market share base while creating a product that appeals "to the masses, to the average consumer, and so far they've been unable to really do that," he said.
Wu, who is keeping his “neutral” rating on the stock, would've preferred someone other than a RIM insider named CEO.
Heins "has some experience in terms of the supply chain and operations, and that helps, but on the consumer side it’s not as clear," he said. "We think someone from an Apple or Amazon or Samsung might have made better sense."
Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a senior associate dean at the Yale School of Management and a CNBC contributor, said promoting an insider to the top spot "can work, if you have great visionary technologists as your CEOs. We've seen them happen very well at Microsoft " where the company has "done very well" under Steve Ballmer.
What worries him more about Heins is "you don't have anybody on this [RIM] board that has been the CEO of a major company to give him advice," Sonnenfeld said in a separate interview.
But if Heins was promoted to stabilize the company "then they're doing very well. He'll keep the company on track."
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Disclosure information was not available for Jeffrey Sonnenfeld. William Power owns no shares but RIM is an investment banking client of Robert W. Baird, makes a market in RIM stock. Shaw Wu does not own shares but Sterne Agee makes a market in RIM shares.