* RIM says will cut "significant" number of job

* JP Morgan, Royal Bank of Canada hired as advisers

* Shares down almost 13 percent in after-market trade

By Alastair Sharp

TORONTO, May 29 (Reuters) - Research In Motion Ltd has hired bankers for a far-reaching strategic review and to look for partnerships as the BlackBerry-maker warned it would likely report a shock fiscal first-quarter operating loss.

RIM virtually invented the concept of on-your-hip email with its first BlackBerry devices, but now finds itself struggling badly in the smartphone market as it trails far behind Apple Inc and other rivals such as Samsung Electronics that use Google Inc's Android software.

RIM said it would also cut a "significant" number of jobs, although it did not say how many. Two sources with close connections to RIM have said it plans to slash its workforce closer to 10,000 by early next year from 16,500 currently.

The lack of details about the size of the loss and the job losses disappointed some analysts.

"They're clearly moving in the wrong direction right now, so I found it a little frustrating that there wasn't more detail," said Alex Gauna, an analyst at JMP Securities.

"That is a disaster. It's really bad. We did not expect an operating loss this quickly," said Peter Misek, an analyst at Jefferies & Co.


RIM's shares, down more than 75 percent over the past 12 months and trading at eight-year lows, slumped nearly 13 percent to around $9.77 a share in after-market trading, although they pulled back slightly to be last quoted at $10.38. About four years ago they traded at more than $140.

Mark McKechnie, an analyst at ThinkEquity LLC, put RIM's value at "about $10 per share," reflecting what its portfolio of technology patents might bring in a sale.

RIM is also struggling to retain its top talent after a series of high-level executive departures in recent weeks. RIM said on Monday that its chief legal officer was resigning and its head of global sales resigned last week to take a job at audio company Sonos.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based company hired bankers from J.P. Morgan Securities LLC and RBC Capital Markets to help the company evaluate strategies, including a possible overhaul of its business model, as well as other moves such as expanding the BlackBerry platform through partnerships and licensing deals.


TAKEOVER TALKS SET ASIDE

Last year, RIM held numerous takeover discussions with potential buyers ranging from Amazon and Microsoft Corp to private equity firms, sources have previously told Reuters. But those talks never resulted in an M&A transaction under former co-chief executives Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie. By the end of last year, RIM management had set aside any options for a sale and focused on trying to turn the company's fortunes around.

JPMorgan and RBC were brought in shortly after the announcement that RIM would pursue strategic alternatives in March, said one source close to the matter.

"These advisors have been tasked to help us with the strategic review we referenced on our year-end financial results conference call and to evaluate the relative merits and feasibility of various financial strategies," RIM CEO Thorsten Heins said in a statement.

RIM was not specific about the size of the likely loss in the quarter ending June 2. Before the warning, analysts had expected RIM's earnings to fall to 42 cents a share and revenue to slip to $3.64 billion, according to analyst views collated by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. RIM is due to release the results on June 28.

In March, RIM posted a net loss of $125 million on the back of an inventory write-down for phones launched last year. Excluding those one-time items, RIM reported an adjusted profit of $418 million.

Heins stressed that he planned to maintain spending and hiring for the development of the next-generation BlackBerry 10 phones and to expand its catalog of third-party applications. A dearth of apps compared with the number available for Apple and Android-based devices has been a major drag on RIM's sales.

RIM's biggest selling point is that other smartphone makers still cannot compete with the security features on RIM's devices, something that has made the BlackBerry a crucial tool for police, government and military use.

RIM said its subscriber base grew to 78 million users, up 1 million from the previous quarter ended March 29. But growth was slower than in any recent quarter.

RIM's market share is falling by the month and the company is pinning its hopes on the BlackBerry 10 models, featuring a new operating system that RIM says will let it compete more effectively against Apple and others.

But the new devices won't be released until later this year, pointing to further difficult quarters to come.

"I don't see the tide turning," said Misek. "The problem is the BlackBerry 10 handsets aren't coming out next quarter, so you know next quarter is going to most likely be worse. Then you look at the November quarter, when we'll probably get the BB10 handsets and at the same time we'll have the iPhone 5. So that quarter is probably going to be bad.

"So we have a string of bad quarters coming and it really is tough to see how it's going to get better."

Earlier on HuffPost:

View our gallery of RIM's biggest fails from 2011.
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  • Blackberry PlayBook Flops, Prices Slashed

    The PlayBook tablet, which was the BlackBerry maker's answer to the iPad, went on sale in April 2011. Since then, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/03/blackberry-playbook-price-rim_n_1181167.html" target="_hplink">RIM has lost $485 million</a> on unsold units. At the beginning of January, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/03/blackberry-playbook-price-rim_n_1181167.html" target="_hplink">RIM slashed the price of all models</a> of its tablet to $299. The special pricing will last until February 4. PlayBooks, which come in 16, 32 and 64 gigabyte models, typically retail for $499, $599 and $699, respectively, <a href="http://news.cnet.com/8301-1001_3-57351162-92/blackberry-playbook-price-now-$299-for-all-models/" target="_hplink">according to CNET</a>. In November, RIM temporarily <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/22/blackberry-playbook-price-drop_n_1107941.html" target="_hplink">slashed the price</a> of the 16GB version of the tablet to $199 at certain retail locations.

  • Network Outages

    In October, BlackBerry <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/13/blackberry-outage-2011-rim-says-services-returning_n_1008596.html" target="_hplink">suffered an outage that affected</a> many of its then 70-million worldwide users, leaving some of its customers in Asia, Europe, Latin American and Africa without service for as many as three days. Some users in the U.S. were affected, but not for as long a period.

  • Drunk Execs Disrupt International Flight

    In December, two RIM executives were fired after a flight they were on was forced to be diverted because the pair's "drunken rowdiness," <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/02/two-men-face-hefty-fine-a_0_n_1125214.html" target="_hplink">the AP reports</a>.

  • BlackBerry 10 Platform Delayed

    Research in Motion announced in December 2011 that its highly anticipated BlackBerry 10 platform won't be available until the end of 2012. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/16/blackberry-10-phones-rim_n_1153314.html" target="_hplink">According to the AP</a>, the company claims the holdup is because the chipset needed for the phones running the platform won't be available until the middle of this year.

  • Stock Slides In 2011

    In 2011, <a href="http://www.dailyfinance.com/quote/nasdaq/research-in-motion-limited-usa/rimm" target="_hplink">RIM's stock</a> dropped <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/23/rim-ceos-jim-balsillie-mike-lazaridis_n_1222605.html#s629929&title=Lessien" target="_hplink">a massive 75 percent</a>.

  • Falling U.S. Market Share

    In less than a year, RIM's share of the U.S. smartphone market <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/23/rim-ceos-jim-balsillie-mike-lazaridis_n_1222605.html#s629929&title=Lessien" target="_hplink">dropped by almost 50 percent</a>, from <a href="http://www.comscore.com/Press_Events/Press_Releases/2011/3/comScore_Reports_January_2011_U.S._Mobile_Subscriber_Market_Share" target="_hplink">30.4 percent</a> in January 2011 to <a href="http://www.comscore.com/Press_Events/Press_Releases/2011/12/comScore_Reports_November_2011_U.S._Mobile_Subscriber_Market_Share" target="_hplink">16.6 percent</a> in November 2011. In 2009, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/16/blackberry-10-phones-rim_n_1153314.html" target="_hplink">RIM controlled 44 percent</a> of the US smartphone market. (Pictured above is the HTC Desire HD Android, which runs on Google's much more popular Android platform.)

  • Investors Urge Company Sell Itself

    A nearly 75 percent drop in stock price in 2011 did not please investors. At the end of 2011, Jaguar Financial Corp, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/01/03/balsillie-lazaridis-rim-research-in-motion-jaguar-financial_n_1180885.html" target="_hplink">one of the largest investors</a> in RIM, called "for substantial corporate governance change and for a sale of RIM, whether as a whole or as separate parts." Vic Alboini, the chief executive of Jaguar Financial, <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-16393180" target="_hplink">told the BBC earlier this month</a> that RIM has "lost it." "The party is over, we believe, in terms of trying to design that cool, tech savvy smartphone," he said. "Microsoft has over $50 billion in cash, RIM has $1.5 billion. There is no way they'll be able to compete."

  • Exploding BlackBerry

    The family of 11-year-old Kian McCreath of Coventry, U.K., gave RIM some of its worst publicity in 2012, telling the media the boy was burned and left with permanent scarring when his BlackBerry Curve 9320 exploded. Although cell phones that are left to charge too long are known to explode, for RIM the news represented a horrible publicity disaster that came just weeks ahead of the launch of its BlackBerry 10.