BlackBerry Shares Plunge 24% After Earnings Miss

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Getty ImagesBlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins
By Julianne Pepitone

BlackBerry is past the point of "transitional quarter" excuses, but the new fiscal year isn't starting out well for the struggling smartphone maker.

BlackBerry shares slumped 24 percent in late-morning trading Friday after the company's fiscal first-quarter results sorely missed Wall Street estimates.

It's been a lot of hurry-up-and-wait for BlackBerry watchers. The long-delayed BlackBerry 10 operating system finally launched in January, during the company's fiscal fourth quarter. But the first BlackBerry 10 device, the touchscreen Z10, went on sale in only a few locations just a few weeks before the quarter ended -- so that reporting period was essentially a wash.

The first quarter was BlackBerry's first chance to prove the company is turning around. Unfortunately for BlackBerry, the quarter was a painful disappointment.

BlackBerry (BBRY) lost 13 cents a share on sales of $3.1 billion. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had expected a profit of 6 cents a share on revenue of $3.4 billion.
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Considering that BlackBerry 10 is meant to be the center of the turnaround, the company didn't mention the platform much in its news release. BlackBerry said that overall smartphone shipments rose 13 percent over the quarter to 6.8 million -- but didn't say how many of those were BlackBerry 10 devices.

Analysts will be looking for more information about Z10 phone sales during a conference call later Friday. The Z10 launched in more areas, including the United States, in late March.

So far, BlackBerry mainly has only its Z10 sales to prove its new platform is a winner. The second BlackBerry 10 device -- the Q10, which features a BlackBerry-classic QWERTY keyboard -- launched in only a few markets during the quarter.

Devices such as the Z10 and Q10 will have to battle popular phones from Apple (AAPL) and Samsung. Given the "highly competitive" smartphone market, BlackBerry said it expects to post another loss for the current quarter.

BlackBerry's future depends on the success of the BlackBerry 10 OS. The company's shares are up an incredible 78 percent since last November, when the company announced the platform was finally, truly coming in January.

But that run-up is partly because many investors are still betting against BlackBerry. As of June 14, nearly 35 percent of shares were held by short-sellers who think that BlackBerry's stock will fall. That's an extremely large percentage, and it has contributed to BlackBerry's wild swings as "shorts" are sometimes forced to buy up shares in order to cover their positions.


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