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Earnings Preview: RIM 3Q ahead of new BlackBerry

Rob Gillies, Associated Press

TORONTO (AP) -- Struggling BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. will release its fiscal third-quarter results after markets close Thursday, as the company tries to hang on to its subscriber base while preparing to release its much-delayed phones early next year.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: The decline in RIM's existing business and cash makes release of new smartphones critical to the company's survival. RIM said it had $2.3 billion in cash and 80 million subscribers three months ago.

Colin Gillis, an analyst with BGC Financial, said many were pleasantly surprised when RIM announced it grew its subscriber base last quarter. Gillis expects growth to be flat this quarter and said it would be a negative to lose subscribers. "It's one of the reasons while people still have a lot of hope in that platform. They still have 80 million users. That's a big number," Gillis said.

RIM's stock has been hammered this year but has doubled in recent months from multiyear-lows as the Canadian company gets ready to release the new BlackBerry 10 phones. A launch event has been announced for Jan. 30. Gillis said reality will likely set in soon.

"Any time a company comes closer to a product launch or revitalization there is enthusiasm in front of that. The problem is execution, in terms of acceptance in the market place, is front of them, Gillis said.

WHY IT MATTERS: RIM fathered the ground-breaking BlackBerry in 1999 but has struggled in recent years to compete with flashier phones like Apple's iPhone and phones running Google's Android software. RIM is banking its future on its much-delayed BlackBerry 10 platform, which is meant to offer the multimedia, Internet browsing and apps experience that customers now demand. The new smartphones are due out early next year.

WHAT'S EXPECTED: Analysts polled by FactSet forecast a third-quarter loss of 35 cents per share on revenue of $2.65 billion.

LAST YEAR'S QUARTER: RIM said it lost $235 million, or 45 cents a share, on revenue of $2.9 billion.