Wednesday, December 21, 2011

RIMM Hangs Up on Amazon, Microsoft, and Nokia

It is difficult to find a stock that is more out of favor than Research in Motion (RIMM), the company best known for the BlackBerry smartphone. RIMM is led by a pair of co-CEOs, a highly unusual arrangement for any publicly-traded company and one that has proven extremely ineffective in recent periods. This dysfunctional structure has resulted in one misstep after another. In particular, the company has delayed the launch of key new models and new software a number of times. RIMM also had a disastrous launch of its tablet computer dubbed the PlayBook. Although some experts claim the PlayBook is technologically superior to other tablets, consumers complain that there are too few apps.

It turns out that at least a few companies thought RIMM was worth buying. While it isn't clear if any formal offers were made,, Microsoft, and Nokia were all recently mentioned in press reports as possible suitors. In any case, it seems that RIMM's co-CEOs weren't keen to be bought out. They apparently refused to entertain any offers. Instead, they continue to believe that they can orchestrate a turnaround by themselves.

Whether they will succeed or not remains to be seen. What is clear, however, is that RIMM is no Lehman Brothers. Although the company is losing market share in the U.S., it is still a leader in several key international markets. In fact, the company's subscriber base actually surged 35% year-over-year during the most recently completed quarter. The board of directors will release a report in January that is widely expected to recommend some drastic changes.

Management has been begging investors to exercise a little more patience. Instead, investors have been selling the stock. Today's news caused the stock to rally. The fact that any company sees value in RIMM is giving investors some assurance--at least for now. In any case, it is much too early to write RIMM's obituary. Despite reduced earnings expectations ($4.10 per share for fiscal 2012), with absolutely no debt on the books, well over a $1 billion in cash, and the real possibility of a management shake up, RIMM is worth a second look.

Disclosure - Vahan Janjigian holds RIMM in portfolios he manages.