BlackBerry losses spark fresh fears

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Reserach in Motion faces being hit with a third-quarter loss and a further decline in sales this week.

Wall Street analysts are expecting the gloomy figures when the Canadian company reports its results on Thursday. Consensus estimates predict a loss of $182m (£112m) compared with a loss of $235m in the second quarter. Sales are expected to slide to $2.7bn from $2.9bn.

The focus of RIM’s shareholders will be on whether the company is still on track to launch its new BlackBerry 10 phone on January 30.

Last month’s announcement of the January launch date for the much-delayed device helped fuel a rally that has seen RIM shares more than double since reaching a record low of $6.30 in late September.

Signs that big American phone companies such as Verizon (NYSE: VZ - news) and AT&T (NYSE: T - news) , as well as the developers of applications that run on the devices, will welcome the BlackBerry 10 have created the first flicker of optimism among RIM investors in four years.

“The message that the company sends out at these quarterly results will be the most important in the last few years,” said Vic Albioni, chairman of Jaguar Financial, a RIM shareholder who has pushed for change at the company. “There is now some guarded optimism.”

Having invented and then controlled the smartphone market for more than a decade, the BlackBerry has been in retreat since Apple’s iPhone hit the shops in 2007. RIM had just 1.6pc of the lucrative US market in September and October, according to a report from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. By comparison, Apple (NasdaqGS: AAPL - news) enjoyed a 48pc share and phones using Google’s Android software had 47pc.

Although RIM’s sales have been growing in emerging economies such as Indonesia and South Africa, the company has also been losing market share in Britain and other major western markets.

RIM’s chief executive, Thorsten Heins, who has been at the helm since January, is overhauling the BlackBerry’s operating software in an

effort to establish a foothold in the key consumer market currently dominated by Apple and Samsung.

The German executive added to the more positive sentiment this month when he forecast that RIM’s large number of government customers will upgrade their phones to the BlackBerry 10. Analysts say the shares have also been boosted as the rally has forced investors who were betting against RIM to unwind their positions.

For the first time in RIM’s history, the company will produce a phone with a flatscreen with features including “peek”, which will allow users to bring their emails and social networking sites on to the screen with a single swipe.

It will also be releasing a version of the BlackBerry 10 with the traditional keyboard.