The Exchange

Wall Street Analysts Drubbed on Blackberry Calls

The Exchange

BlackBerry (BBRY) reported a “surprise” quarterly loss Friday, sending its shares plummeting 27% and providing yet another tough lesson for investors: Ignore the Wall Street hype machine.

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Reuters

The troubled phone maker reported an adjusted loss of 13 cents a share – after excluding some one-time items – for the quarter ended June 1. Wall Street analysts were expecting profits of 7 cents a share. The one-day stock crash erased a 22% gain year to date.

Just a few months ago, Wall Street analysts were projecting Blackberry would report an adjusted loss of 15 cents a share for the just completed quarter. But a series of anecdotes, “market checks” and other soft data convinced analysts that Blackberry’s new Z10 and Q10 might be selling faster than expected.

Raised estimates

And so, in March, 25 of the 32 analysts following the stock raised their estimate, according to FactSet. In April, 23 estimates were hiked. And in May, we got more of the same as 23 analysts raised estimates. Even in June, the average estimate crept higher on four more hikes.

RBC analyst Mark Sue raised his estimate June 18, citing “faster than expected channel fill of the Z10/Q10.” Andy Perkins at Societe Generale had similarly nebulous data at his fingertips earlier this month when he flipped his rating from “sell” to buy.” Whoops.

Wells Fargo analyst Maynard Um had a theory backing his estimate hike: Pent-up demand from keyboard-loving, old school Blackberry users would propel sales of the new Q10, one of the only recent smartphones with a physical keyboard.

In the end, these estimates were all wrong. Blackberry sold only 6.8 million smartphones in the quarter, including 2.7 million of the Z10/Q10 line. The most recent projections had total sales 10% higher and 10-family sales a full 33% higher.

But not everyone was fooled by the hype. Blackberry has also lately drawn numerous short sellers. Those are investors who sell borrowed shares – they aim to repay the borrowing with cheaper shares down the road. The combined total of Blackberry shares sold short in New York and Toronto reached 33% of the company’s market value, Bloomberg reported yesterday. That's a record high.

At least some folks had their eye on the ball.

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