TORONTO A wave of optimism surrounding the launch of Research In Motion's re-engineered BlackBerry line picked up momentum on Thursday with Goldman Sachs raising its rating on the smartphone maker and setting off a surge in its share price.
The brokerage firm joined a growing chorus of analysts who have warmed to the prospects of a successful introduction of the new BlackBerry 10 devices, which RIM hopes will let it claw back market share lost to Apple Inc's iPhone and smartphones powered by Google's Android platform. The BB10 devices are expected to hit store shelves early next year.
The shift in sentiment has been swift. A few weeks ago, most analysts believed RIM had squandered any chance it had to become a serious competitor because of repeated delays in the launch of the new smartphone.
But with a launch date now set for January 30 and some positive feedback about the devices from telecom carriers and developers, some analysts now think RIM might be able turn around its fortunes.
In a note to clients, Goldman analyst Simona Jankowski said preliminary specifications that have emerged on the BB10 devices appear impressive.
"With these devices RIM appears to finally be aiming for the leading edge hardware performance that was missing from its prior generations," Jankowski Said.
Jankowski said she believes more applications will be available for BB10 than had been expected because BlackBerry users typically download a relatively high number of paid apps, which is an enticement to app developers.
Goldman, which raised its rating on RIM shares to "buy" from "neutral," also increased its price target to $16 from $9.
By midday, RIM's shares had jumped up more than 6 percent on the Nasdaq to $11.78, while its Toronto-listed shares rose by a similar margin to C$11.72.
RIM shares, which have plunged about 90 percent from a 2008 high of more than $148, have risen some 75 percent in the last two months as the company moves closer to the launch of the new devices.
RIM promises its new devices will be faster and smoother than previous smartphones, and will have a large catalog of apps that are crucial to the success of any new line of smartphones.
Earlier this month, Jefferies & Co analyst Peter Misek, who has been one of RIM's biggest critics, raised his rating and price target on the stock.
Last week, National Bank analyst Kris Thompson raised his price target on the shares, stating that there is more money to be made in the stock ahead of the launch of the BB10 devices.
RIM Chief Executive Thorsten Heins told Reuters earlier this month that he sees the new BB10 devices providing RIM with a framework for growth over the next decade.
To be sure, not everyone has jumped on the bandwagon. Wedge Partners analyst Brian Blair warned on Wednesday that rising expectations for the BB10 in 2013 have provided false hope for investors.
"We believe the run-up in the stock miscalculates the reality of consumer demand for BB10 next year. ... The fact is, the smartphone market has changed in the last 24 months, and RIM is not only late to the party, the party has moved to a different location and RIM is showing up at the wrong house," Blair said.
(Reporting by Euan Rocha; Editing by Maureen Bavdek; and Peter Galloway)