* Jefferies cuts price target to $12 from $15
* Sees more than 50 pct chance of RIM pre-announcing poor Q4
* Keeps “underperform” rating
March 1 (Reuters) - Blackberry maker Research in Motion Ltd RIM.TO RIMM.O (RIM) is likely to preannounce poor February quarter results and forecast a “very weak” May quarter on lower sales of its phones, according to Jefferies & Co analysts.
“There is a greater than 50 percent chance that RIM will negatively pre-announce the February quarter,” said analyst Peter Misek -- who is rated five stars by Thomson Reuters StarMine for the accuracy of his earnings estimates on RIM.
Sales of both RIM’s low-end and higher-end phones continue to be challenged, with the company’s higher-end handsets doing poorly outside of enterprise sales on continued momentum of Apple Inc’s (AAPL.O) iPhone 4S and Google Inc (GOOG.O) powered Android smartphones, said Misek.
The likely launch of the iPhone 5 ahead of the BB10 -- which is expected in September -- is particularly troubling, said Misek, who cut his price target on RIM’s U.S.-listed shares to $12 from $15.
Sales of the company’s low-end handsets have also been falling in North America, Latin America and Europe, said Misek, terming this “very negative” as sales outside of the U.S. have typically been more resilient.
Misek lowered his February quarter earnings estimates to 69 cents a share on revenue of $4.2 billion, from his prior earnings expectation of 82 cents a share on revenue of $4.6 billion.
Analysts, on an average, are expecting RIM to post fourth-quarter earnings of 83 cents per share and revenue of $4.58 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
“We believe Street numbers will likely be revised down given the lack of major new products in the near-term and continued sales challenges due to competitive pressure from both low-end and high-end devices,” said Misek, who rates the stock “underperform.”
Five-star rated Misek ranks 11th out of 51 analysts covering RIM, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine data. StarMine awards the top 10 percent of analysts five stars, the next 23 percent four stars, and the lowest 10 percent one star.
RIM shares closed at $14.165 on Wednesday on the Nasdaq. They closed at C$14.03 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
(Reporting by Sruthi Ramakrishnan in Bangalore; Editing by Tenzin Pema, Roshni Menon)
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