BlackBerry reports first-quarter loss


Thorsten Heins, chief executive officer of BlackBerry, speaks during the launch of the BlackBerry Z10 smartphone in Sydney, Australia, on Monday, March 18, 2013. (Brendon Thorne/BLOOMBERG)
June 28, 2013

BlackBerry reported a first-quarter loss Friday — the first full quarter that includes sales of the company’s new BlackBerry 10 devices.

The company reported a loss of $67 million, or 13 cents per share, on $3.1 billion in revenue — below the predictions of most analysts, who had cautioned that BlackBerry’s path to recovery would be slow. According to a poll from Thomson Reuters, analysts were expecting the company to earn 6 cents per share in the first quarter on $3.36 billion in revenue.

In a call with analysts Friday morning, BlackBerry chief executive Thorsten Heins stressed that this is still a company in transition. “BlackBerry 10 is still in the early stages of its transition,” he said. “In fact we are just five months in.”

The company predicted an operating loss for its next quarter. BlackBerry shares took a deep dive on news, down nearly 24 percent ahead of the market’s open on Friday.

Many had expected this report would offer insight on the status of the firm’s turnaround, but the company did not disclose how many of the 6.8 million smartphones that it shipped in the last quarter were new BlackBerry 10 devices. Executives also declined to do so during the call.

The firm did say that the company’s subscriber base had declined by 4 million to 72 million in the past quarter as consumers continue to leave the older BlackBerry 7 system.

BlackBerry executives also said that revenues were affected by currency restrictions in the firm’s key market in Venezuela, which meant that revenue could not be recognized under generally accepted U.S. accounting principles. Fifteen percent of the company’s revenues came from the Latin America region, the firm said.

While the report marked the first full quarter in which the company was selling its newest smartphones, Heins repeatedly noted that BlackBerry is still rolling out its devices across the world. For example, BlackBerry’s new keyboard-toting Q10 device began selling in the United States only last week.

“It’s pretty early days still,” Heins said. “We haven’t even completed the entire portfolio.”

He said that the company — which has released or announced three BlackBerry 10 devices — will have a narrow, focused smartphone portfolio moving ahead. The firm’s goal is to have no more than six devices on sale at a given time, he said.

Heins also indicated that device sales weren’t the only one metric that BlackBerry is using internally to measure its own success. “We don’t plan to run the company with a short-term device-only strategy,” he said. “We don’t have to be all things to all people in all markets.”

Heins then went on to tout BlackBerry’s performance its core enterprise market, particularly consumer adoption of its BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 managements system. The company recently began offering a BES 10-based system to allow companies to manage devices from competitors such as Apple and smartphones running Google’s Android mobile operating system.

He also said that BlackBerry will be updating other products, such as its BlackBerry Messaging service, to enable them to work on competitors’ phones. That effort, he said, is on track to be finished by the end of the summer.

Heins closed his portion of the call by referring to 2013 as “our year of investment,” as the company works to promote its new devices and services. BlackBerry is already in a better position that it was in 2012, Heins said, when some observers doubted that the firm would survive the year.

“One year ago, none of these products existed,” Heins said. “Transition takes time.”

Related stories:

BlackBerry launches service to manage Android, iOS devices

BlackBerry will bring BBM to Apple, Android; introduces cheaper Q5 phone

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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