RIM deflects criticism at annual meeting

WATERLOO, Ontario Wed Jul 13, 2011 2:39am BST

Research In Motion (RIM) Co-CEO Jim Balsillie (C) speaks with President and Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis (L) during the annual general meeting of shareholders in Waterloo July 12, 2011. REUTERS/ Mike Cassese

Research In Motion (RIM) Co-CEO Jim Balsillie (C) speaks with President and Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis (L) during the annual general meeting of shareholders in Waterloo July 12, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/ Mike Cassese

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WATERLOO, Ontario (Reuters) - Research In Motion executives deflected criticism from investors who complained the BlackBerry maker has been mismanaged and marketed poorly as rivals Apple and Google steal its market share.

While welcomed with applause by most of the roughly 700 people at its annual meeting on Tuesday, some shareholders lobbed tough questions about product delays, lack of shelf space for its PlayBook tablet and whether a limp share price made RIM a takeover target.

"You're letting Apple and Android eat your lunch," one unhappy investor said, referring to the iPhone maker and Google's software, which a number of device makers use. "You're an innovator, but you're not good at selling what you make."

Shareholders have had little to celebrate during a painful transition period for the company that once dominated the smartphone industry with its email-centric devices.

RIM shares have wilted since a February peak, its profit fell last quarter and it warns of more pain ahead as it migrates its smartphones onto the QNX software that first appeared in the PlayBook.

Co-Chief Executive Mike Lazaridis said the new Bold smartphone, one of seven updated models in RIM's product pipeline, could have been brought to market sooner but RIM returned it to its laboratories after realizing rival handset makers were engaging in a "arms race" in the United States.

The decision "may have delayed us but we're going to come out ahead," Lazaridis said.

RIM's share of the U.S. smartphone market dipped to 24.7 percent in the three months to May from almost 29 percent a quarter earlier, with Apple and Google's Android both garnering wider audiences, according to market analytics firm comScore.

Lazaridis' performance impressed Jeffrey Stacey from Stacey Muirhead Capital Management, which holds 100,000 RIM shares after buying in the past year.

He is "not showing any sense of desperation that they're coming unglued technically," Stacey said. "We didn't hear anything today that gave us any concerns at all about the plan RIM is working toward.

The company has 67 million subscribers using its BlackBerry smartphones, co-Chief Executive Jim Balsillie said. RIM had more than 55 million subscribers by late November, the last time it reported the metric in its financial results.

RIM charges mobile network operators a monthly fee per BlackBerry subscriber for access to its own infrastructure, which compresses and encrypts data before pushing it out to devices.

Others were disappointed RIM didn't show off more of the devices it promises will get it back in the race.

"It's show-me time, right? I hope they do a good job," said small shareholder Ileo Mbanianga from Family Tree Capital. "I'm disappointed nobody mentioned the co-CEO thing once."

RIM avoided what would have been an embarrassing vote of confidence in its top brass when an activist shareholder withdrew a motion to force co-founder Lazaridis and Balsillie to relinquish their other shared role as board chairman.

RIM has promised it will create a committee to study the issue and report back early next year.

Its directors were returned to the board unopposed, with an initial count showing more than 90 percent support for each.

(Editing by Richard Chang, Bernard Orr)

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