CEO vows to turn RIM into "lean, mean machine"

by Reuters    Jul 11, 2012

BlackberryResearch In Motion Ltd’s (RIM) new CEO vowed on Tuesday to turn around the embattled company with the new generation of BlackBerry devices coming next year, saying he would transform RIM into a “lean, mean, hunting machine.”

But Thorsten Heins, presiding over his first annual meeting since taking the helm, offered little to disgruntled shareholders beyond his faith in the power of the BlackBerry 10 line to reverse RIM’s fortunes. Its battered stock fell another 5 percent after he spoke.

“There was no mention of a sale of the company, no mention of a breakup of the company, and again, our big, big concern is if the BB10s are a dud,” said Vic Alboini, chief executive of Jaguar Financial and a long-time RIM cri tic. “Where are we then?”

After a year that wiped out nearly 80 percent of RIM’s value , Heins a acknowledged the frustration of shareholders with his decision to delay the launch of the new phones until after the crucial holiday shopping season.

“I am not satisfied with the performance of the company over the past year,” Heins told the mostly subdued audience. “Many of you are frustrated with the time it has taken us to make our way through the transition.”

But Heins, who joined RIM from electronics giant Siemens AG f our year ago and took over as CEO in January, expressed confidence that RIM was heading in the right direction.

“I have assembled a leadership team for RIM that’s truly capable of taking us into future,” he told shareholders.

RIM virtually invented mobile email with its first BlackBerry devices more than a decade ago, but its market share has evaporated as consumers flock to Apple Inc’s iPhone and devices based on Google Inc’s Android system.

RIM last month posted its first operating loss in eight years, and it was much deeper than expected. The company also said it was cutting 5,000 jobs, almost a third of its workforce, as it struggles win back its reputation as an industry innovator.

At the same time the company pushed back the launch of the BlackBerry 10 devices to next year from the final quarter of this year. Heins said the delay reflected RIM’s determination to make sure that the devices were ready for the big time.

“We’re working day and night to bring it out and prove the point that it is what we say it is,” he told reporters after the meeting.

RIM plans to prune down its extensive array of BlackBerry models to focus on high-end and mid-range devices that will come with either touchscreen or physical keyboards, Heins said. But things will probably get worse before they get better. Heins conceded that RIM would likely suffer lower average selling prices and declining service revenue this year as it pushes to sell existing BlackBerry devices.