RIM Ups Pace in Asia Amid U.S. Slowdown

Research in Motion Ltd. will add new carriers in fast-growing emerging markets, and does not yet see an adverse impact from a widening global financial crisis, its co-chief executive said on Thursday.


RIM is betting that new product launches will fuel growth for the rest of the year and beyond, despite a slowdown in the U.S. economy, and is looking at setting up manufacturing and logistics operations in India, Jim Balsillie said.

"No matter how much economic challenge there is, how many people do you know that have given up their mobile?" Balsillie said at the launch of the BlackBerry Bold smartphone in India's financial hub.

"But there's clearly got to be a point where there is an impact. Macro-economic factors have gotten all the more turbulent in the last week, and maybe it will come to that tipping point," he said, declining to say if the company stood by its guidance for the second quarter and for the rest of the year.

RIM in June posted first-quarter earnings that fell just short of analyst estimates, and provided a muted second quarter outlook. But the company expects what could be its strongest second half ever, with several new product launches.

Thus far in 2008 the Waterloo, Ontario-based company has only launched the BlackBerry Bold--a top-end handset aimed at its mainstay base of business customers. But it is expected to launch a number of consumer-oriented devices later in the year.

Asked if these would include a touch screen phone to take on Apple Inc's iPhone, Balsillie only said: "Stay tuned."

RIM recently launched the new flip version of its popular BlackBerry Pearl aimed at a more mainstream market, putting it in more direct competition with the likes of Nokia and Motorola , as well as Apple.

RIM has been pushing deeper into the retail market to cut its reliance on its mainstay business customers. New applications and content in markets like India will help do that, Balsillie said.

"China's strengths are its scale and manufacturing, while India has a creative, dynamic workforce that can create wireless solutions," said Balsillie, who was dressed in a traditional Indian tunic.

RIM was "aggressively developing a made-in-India strategy," he said, to make tailored products that would contribute to a less expensive manufacturing and design cycle.

India, the world's second-largest wireless market with nearly 300 million users in August, is seen as a long-term opportunity for RIM, trailing its progress in China.

India's three leading mobile operators, Bharti Airtel Ltd., Reliance Communications Ltd., and Vodafone-controlled Vodafone Essar, as well as BPL offer BlackBerry services in India, where more than 8 million new wireless users sign up every month.

"Our growth in Asia is absolutely key to our strategy and India is an incredibly strategic growth market for RIM," he said.

(Reporting by Rina Chandran; Editing by Mark Williams)

Copyright 2008 Reuters