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BlackBerry Maker RIM Slashes Short-Term Sales Forecast

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BLACKBERRY SALES 2011
AP

NEW YORK — Research In Motion Ltd., the maker of the BlackBerry, on Thursday cut its earnings and sales forecasts for the current quarter, saying it's selling fewer and cheaper phones than it had expected.

RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie blamed the shortfall on delays in launching new high-end BlackBerrys, saying the company is in "transition" to a new generation of phones.

"We're cutting over to a whole new platform, a whole new set of products," he told analysts on a conference call. "We feel very, very excited and committed to the long-term strategic strength of the company. We do not feel that that is in question."

Investors were skeptical, sending the stock down $6.16, or 11 percent, to $50.43 in extended trading.

It's the second hit for the stock in just over a month. When reporting earnings for its fiscal fourth quarter on March 24, the Waterloo, Ontario, company said it expects earnings of $1.47 to $1.55 per share for the current quarter, below analyst expectations at the time.

On Thursday, it lowered that range to $1.30 to $1.37 per share. It also said the number of BlackBerrys shipped will be toward the lower end of the previously forecast range of 13.5 million to 14.5 million. .

It expects revenue to come in below the $5.2 billion to $5.6 billion range it had given on March 24. It reports first-quarter results in June.

RIM still expects a comeback in the second half of its fiscal year, thanks to new phones and "cost management." It's sticking to its full-year earnings forecast of $7.50 per share.

Analysts had taken RIM at its word, and set their fiscal first-quarter expectations in the middle of the company's ranges. But they have been more cautious about full-year earnings, projecting earnings of $6.86 per share as surveyed by FactSet, well below the company's forecast.

RIM said shipments of the PlayBook, its first tablet, are in line with expectations. The tablet went on sale recently, to mixed reviews.

RIM slashed its outlook a week after rival Apple Inc. reported a blowout quarter, with a record 18.65 million iPhones shipped.

BlackBerrys are known for their security and reliability as email devices, but they haven't kept pace with iPhones or phones based on Google Inc.'s Android software when it comes to running third-party applications.

Balsillie promised the company would show "very powerful stuff" at next week's BlackBerry World conference in Orlando, Fla., which presumably will include a software update. It's not clear if RIM will go as far as demonstrating new phone software based on the radically different operating system of the PlayBook.

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