Maker of slumping Blackberry faces restive shareholders
Research In Motion leaders sought to reassure their angry shareholders at their annual meeting on Tuesday.
Research In Motion, seeking to reassure shareholders at their annual meeting Tuesday, reiterated that it's considering all strategic options for the company, even as it pushes for a January release of the BlackBerry 10 (BB10).
"We're doing all our homework to understand what our options are," Chairwoman Barbara Stymiest told reporters at the event in Waterloo, Ontario. "We are doing this in parallel with delivering on BB10. Whatever happens will be the best of the available options at the time."
RIM faced combative questions Tuesday from shareholders, who have seen the stock lose about 95 percent of its value since peaking in 2008.
In a packed auditorium, investors criticized everything from Chief Executive Officer Thorsten Heins's million-dollar salary to the board's lack of diversity to technical glitches with the existing BlackBerry technology.
Vic Alboini, chairman of the Toronto-based investment firm Jaguar Financial, served as the company's most vocal critic, standing up twice to ask questions. He has called for the company to be sold or broken up, and said Tuesday he was disappointed not to hear about those possibilities. He has cited Microsoft or IBM as potential buyers.
Alboini also called for changes to the board, which he views as too insular. Shareholders did elect one new director Tuesday, TPG Capital LP executive Timothy Dattels — an addition Alboini called "a step in the right direction."
The meeting was held at an auditorium at Wilfrid Laurier University, near RIM's headquarters. Only water was served at the event, which one investor during the meeting lauded as a cost-cutting move.
Even so, the meeting did little to placate shareholders. RIM's stock fell as much as 6.1 percent to $7.20 in New York, after a decline of 5.3 percent Monday. The shares have lost about half their value since the start of the year.
RIM has failed to keep up with Apple and Google, and the release of the BlackBerry 10 operating system — a linchpin of its comeback plan — has been delayed twice.
RIM last month reported a first-quarter loss excluding restructuring expenses that was more than five times bigger than what analysts had predicted. Sales tumbled 43 percent to $2.8 billion, and the company said it would cut 5,000 jobs — about a third of its workforce.
"I want to assure you I am not satisfied with the performance of the company over the past year," Heins told shareholders at the meeting.
"We are working around the clock to successfully complete the transition path that we are on," Heins said.
RIM's share of the global smartphone industry fell by more than half to 6.4 percent in the first quarter, according to research firm IDC. Google's Android jumped to 59 percent, while Apple accounted for 23 percent.
The company also said Tuesday that it was aiming to release its first BlackBerry 10 phones in January, giving a more specific time frame than its previous goal of the first quarter.
"My expectation is that in some countries we will be launching in January," Frank Boulben, RIM's new chief marketing officer, said before the meeting.
Boulben, who was hired for RIM's top marketing job in May, said that releasing the phone in January and not in the run-up to the holiday shopping season means RIM won't have to compete with a flood of new handsets. Apple and other rivals are expected to release new models later this year.
The company said last month that the first BB10 phone wouldn't be released until first quarter of 2013, an announcement that sent the shares tumbling. At the time, RIM wasn't more specific.