RIM reports its first-quarter results after market close on Thursday amid minimal investor expectations for the beleaguered handset giant.



NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Research In Motion(:RIMM) reports its first-quarter results after market close on Thursday although investors have minimal expectations from the beleaguered handset giant.

Even the first glimpse of the BlackBerry 10 operating system last month did little to placate the company's long-suffering investors. Then, RIM CEO Thorsten Heins forecast a first-quarter operating loss, further pressuring the company's stock. RIM reports first-quarter results on Thursday

Could things get any worse for the embattled Canadian firm? Quite possibly, said analysts.

"We see the situation at RIM continuing to deteriorate from both a competitive and product perspective," explained Credit Suisse analyst Kulbinder Garcha, in a recent note. "Given the limited disclosure around the preannouncement there could be further risks to the downside."

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters are looking for RIM to report a loss of 1 cent a share on revenue of $3.11 billion, compared to earnings of $1.33 a share on sales of $4.9 billion in the same period last year.

Credit Suisse's Garcha, however, expects RIM's first-quarter revenue to come in at $2.68 billion, weighed down by sales of just 7.2 million BlackBerry devices with an average selling price (ASP) of $209. Consensus estimates are calling for sales of 8.7 million BlackBerrys at an ASP of $224, according to the analyst.

During the same period last year, RIM sold 13.2 million of its famous smartphones.

"Customer churn and hardware losses are likely to continue," noted Garcha. "In spite of the company's push toward a new platform (OS and ecosystem), we believe these efforts may prove too little too late."

Rocked by delayed product launches and increasingly fierce competition from Apple's(:AAPL) iPhone, Google's(:GOOG) Android phones and Microsoft's (:MSFT) Windows phones, investors have fled RIM in droves.

RIM shares have plunged more than 67% over the last 12 months and are down almost 37% in 2012. Apple, in contrast, has climbed more than 73% and 41%, respectively.

Sure, Heins gave a sneak peek of the much-delayed BlackBerry 10 operating system recently, but the technology did nothing to lift the company's stock. On the contrary, RIM's shares closed down almost 6% after Heins showed off the OS at a developer conference in Florida.

TheStreet will be live-blogging RIM's earnings, starting at 3: 45 p.m. EDT.

Initially expected in 2011, RIM has said that BlackBerry 10 will make its debut in the second half of 2012. Clearly, investors are running out of patience.

Set against this backdrop, RIM's hardly in the position to play a waiting game, according to Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu, who recently reduced his estimates for the company.

"We are picking up concern from suppliers, carriers, and distributors that BlackBerry shipments will likely see a pause ahead of the BlackBerry 10 OS refresh later this year," he explained, in a note "From our understanding, the uncertainty with the timing and lack of clarity from RIMM isn't helping."

Inevitably, rumors are swirling about RIM's long-term strategy. As part of its recent business update, RIM announced plans to reduce its work force and confirmed the hiring of J.P. Morgan and Royal Bank of Canada to assist with a review of strategic options.

The company, however, recently quashed a U.K. newspaper report that it's considering splitting in two, separating handset manufacturing from its messaging network.

"RIM has hired advisers to help the Company examine ways to leverage the BlackBerry platform through partnerships, licensing opportunities and strategic business model alternatives," explained a spokesman, in an email to TheStreet. "As CEO Thorsten Heins said on the Company's fourth-quarter earnings call, 'We believe the best way to drive value for our stakeholders is to execute on our plan to turn the company around.' This remains true."

Nonetheless, there's been plenty of speculation that the BlackBerry maker could offer rich pickings for a host of companies, including Microsoft(:MSFT), Amazon(:AMZN), Samsung, HTC or Facebook(:FB), although the social networker would be wise to avoid the tough smartphone market.

At least one analyst, though, does not expect any near-term M&A.

"Immediate asset sales or strategic options could unleash around $15 per share in value, but are unlikely, leaving a declining Book Value," explained Morgan Stanley(:MS) analyst Ehud Gelblum, in a note downgrading RIM. "We believe the only way RIM remains a viable entity is at a fraction of its current size, a transformation that erases much of its earnings power."

While investors could hear details about RIM's headcount reductions during the earnings conference call after market close, this is one company that's still far from salvation.

--Written by James Rogers in New York.

Follow @jamesjrogers

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