BlackBerry maker Research In Motion must launch innovative devices on schedule and offer credible earnings forecasts to win back the trust of investors made wary by its missteps, an analyst said on Tuesday.
In a note to clients, RBC Capital Markets analyst Mike Abramsky cut his price target on RIM shares to $29 from $35 and slashed its estimates for earnings per share for the current fiscal year by 11 percent and for the next fiscal year by almost 19 percent.
He said RIM remains a potential buyout target due to its proprietary messaging services, global subscriber base and strong patent portfolio. He valued a takeout at $30 a share and named Microsoft, Cisco, IBM and Nokia and possible buyers.
Abramsky's target is still well above RIM's share price of around $23.50 on Tuesday, but the change moves RBC below the $31 mean average of analysts. Analysts' forecasts for the share price range from a low of $18 to a high of $75.
In February, RIM shares changed hands for as much as $70, but the stock has slumped after a series of profit warnings, coupled with the botched launch of its PlayBook competitor to Apple's iPad.
RBC's earnings per share estimates for RIM of $4.95 for fiscal 2011 and $5 for 2012 are about 10 cents a share higher than the average analyst estimate.
Urging RIM's board to take a more active role in overseeing management decisions as the company brings in new products, Abramsky said RIM's products and software have not been competitive for years.
The company once dominated the smartphone industry with business-friendly devices, but it has struggled as Apple's iPhone and later Google's Android software have gained market share.
He said the BlackBerry maker has lost credibility with investors by retracting and missing its own forecasts.
RIM reported dismal earnings last Thursday, sending its shares sharply lower. It shipped far fewer BlackBerry smartphones and PlayBook tablet computers than either the company or analysts had forecast.
Abramsky said RIM still had a chance to turn its fortunes around based on a sizable subscriber base of 70 million, support from carriers as an alternative to Apple and Android, global growth, and a strong patent portfolio.
RIM has launched a string of refreshed phones on its existing software and plans to launch another batch early next year using the QNX software found in the PlayBook.
It is expected to debut long-awaited PlayBook features including an Android app player as well as email, calendar and other functions long associated with the BlackBerry at a developers' conference in October.
Moving to the powerful QNX platform gives RIM a chance to make its software competitive, but discarding its existing operating system forces developers that build applications for it to change the way they operate.
Four years after iPhone launched, RIM still hasn't launched competitive smartphone innovations or addressed its 'app gap', Abramsky wrote.
Abramsky said RIM had lost the app battle and developer interest in BlackBerry has significantly diminished making its successful emulation of Android all the more vital.
Despite trading at only four times its fiscal 2011 earnings, RBC does not expect that valuation to improve until the company addresses its credibility gap.
(Reporting by Alastair Sharp in Toronto; editing by Peter Galloway and Janet Guttsman)