Jaguar Is Ready to Pounce on RIM

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This just in: Some Research In Motion (NAS: RIMM) investors are not happy.

OK, so that's not exactly news. The BlackBerry maker's share price has fallen 58% year to date, and the company has agreed to look at its convoluted management structure on request from irate shareholders. But the calls for drastic action are only growing louder.

Citing poor investment returns, lack of innovation, a terrible management structure, and a rapidly consolidating industry, activist investor firm Jaguar Financial recently asked for a quicker shakeup. RIM management's current promise of a report next January to address some of these issues isn't good enough when Apple (NAS: AAPL) , Google (NAS: GOOG) , and even Nokia (NYS: NOK) are moving much faster. Cupertino and the Android army have been eating the BlackBerry slice of the mobile pie for years, and the Finns are at least willing to take drastic action to overcome a sliding market share. If you run with the bulls, you'd better wear running shoes. But RIM is stuck in a pair of outdated cement boots.

And now, Jaguar claims to have support for its battle cry from 8% of RIM investors. The firm expects to have 12% of shareholders on board before too long. These measures seem popular with shareholders at large, as the stock has gained 15% since the Jaguar pounce, including a 4.5% jump on today's news of wider support.

It seems obvious that RIM would benefit from a severe shakeup. Co-CEOs Balsillie and Lazaridis also share the chairman's post on the board of directors, giving them pretty much unlimited power to run the company whatever way they wish. Since Apple introduced the first iPhone, that direction has been a long, slow train wreck.

Sure, the unit volume of BlackBerrys shipped keeps on rising, but at what cost? Gross margins are dipping, revenue growth is slowing down, and profits are actually shrinking. Most damning of all, RIM's operating cash flows are crashing hard while capital expenses skyrocket -- the company burned more than $300 million of free cash last quarter. All told, RIM reduced its cash hoard by half in just three months.

If I were a RIM shareholder, I'd be angry, too. Promising to consider some change is a far cry from taking action, especially when the people in the shakeup crosshairs also are ultimately responsible for planning and then making the change.

Activist investors like Jaguar don't always get their way, but they cannot be ignored. You may recall how Walt Disney (NYS: DIS) CEO Michael Eisner resisted many cries for change before being forced out by a murderous shareholder vote. Since Bob Iger took the wheel almost exactly six years ago, the House of Mouse has crushed the Dow Jones (INDEX: ^DJI) with bold moves like the acquisitions of Pixar and Marvel.

That's the magnitude of change RIM needs today. Unless Jaguar can force the company into a whole new direction, there are many better buys in the mobile industry today. Will the activists make it happen? Add Research In Motion to your Foolish watchlist and stay tuned -- you'll be the first to know.

At the time this article was published Fool contributorAnders Bylundowns shares of Google but holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google and Apple.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Walt Disney, Google, and Apple and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. You can check outAnders' holdings and a concise bio, follow him onTwitterorGoogle+, or peruseour Foolish disclosure policy.

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