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BlackBerry shares plunge on weak results, sales

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

BlackBerry on Friday posted an unexpected first quarter loss and disappointing sales figures for its new smartphones, sending its share price tumbling.

The Waterloo, Ontario firm announced an $84 million loss in the first quarter ended June 1, compared with a loss of $518 million in the same period a year earlier. Revenues topped $3.1 billion, up nine percent.

But analysts had expected a seven cent per share profit instead of a 13 cents per share loss.The results come after the company rolled out new smartphones based on the new BlackBerry 10 platform, seen as its best hope at regaining traction after suffering staggering losses in market share in recent years.

The group said it shipped 6.8 million smartphones in the quarter, 13 percent more than in last quarter. This includes 2.7 million of its new touchscreen Z10 and Q10 with a small keyboard launched earlier this year, missing analysts' targets.

Its stock price as a result slumped 24.5 percent to $10.91 in midday trade in New York.

"I can't imagine anyone is happy with BlackBerry performance except maybe BlackBerry competitors," said independent industry analyst Jeff Kagan.

"Can BlackBerry turn things around with their new Q10, the keyboard device that just launched? Hopefully yes, but to tell you the truth hopes are dimmed by this first quarter performance."

Morgan Stanley analysts also noted that BlackBerry did not call out the total number of subscribers to its services in its financial filings, "leading us to believe the count could have declined sharply."

BlackBerry chief executive Thorsten Heins said in a statement he planned to boost spending on new products and services over the next three quarters.

"We are in the early stages of this (BlackBerry 10) launch," he said.

But he also warned of more losses coming in the second quarter before BlackBerry's fortunes get rosier.

The company meanwhile noted that "the smartphone market remains highly competitive, making it difficult to estimate units, revenue and levels of profitability."

While BlackBerry helped create a culture of mobile users who were glued to the company's smartphones, many of those customers have since moved to Apple or other smartphone makers such as Samsung, mainly using the Google Android operating system.

In a turnaround bid, the company unveiled its new platform on January 30, as it dropped the corporate name Research in Motion to rebrand as BlackBerry, but staggered sales launches across regions.

The Z10 was only launched in the key US market in March while the Z10 followed after the end of the first quarter.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130628/blackberry-shares-plunge-weak-results-sales