BlackBerry reports loss, revenue decline but says it is ahead of plan

BlackBerry reports loss, revenue decline but says it is ahead of plan
BlackBerry reported its fourth-quarter earnings Friday. (Graeme Roy / Associated Press)

BlackBerry swung to a loss and reported a decline in revenue in its fourth quarter, but Chief Executive John Chen greeted the results with optimism.

"I am obviously extremely pleased with the Q4 results because it put us on the track and if not, slightly ahead," Chen said in a call with analysts Friday. "I'm very pleased with the fact that the company's now back in execution mode."


The company's fourth-quarter loss was smaller than expected, but it missed on revenue.

For the three months ended March 1, the smartphone maker reported a loss of $423 million, or 80 cents a share, compared with a profit of $98 million in the year-earlier quarter.

Excluding one-time items, BlackBerry reported a loss of 8 cents a share; analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected a loss of 55 cents a share on revenue of $1.1 billion.

Revenue was $976 million, down from $2.7 billion a year ago. It was the first time since 2007 that BlackBerry has reported quarterly revenue below $1 billion.

Shares of BlackBerry briefly spiked before falling 35 cents, or 3.9%, to $8.70 at 11:30 a.m. Pacific time.

Chen told analysts that BlackBerry had cut operating expenses, putting it "probably a quarter ahead of schedule at this point."

Besides reducing costs, the Waterloo, Canada, company is also under pressure to return to profitability and show growth. It is aiming to be profitable in fiscal 2016.

"We just need to make sure we do it in a well-paced manner and don't want to get too much ahead of ourselves," Chen said.

He said near-term growth would probably come from software and services such as the company's BBM messaging service. BBM has about 85 million monthly active users.

But the company has not given up on hardware. Chen said he was working to make BlackBerry's handset business profitable and that the company would launch new products including the BlackBerry Classic, formerly known as the Q20.

The BlackBerry Classic features a keyboard, trackpad and a long battery life, Chen said. It is expected to be released in the fourth quarter of this year. The phone is also bringing back buttons for "Menu," "Back," "Send" and "End."

He also announced that, due to customer demand, the company would continue manufacturing BlackBerry Bold smartphones. The older-model device runs the BlackBerry 7 operating system and has been popular in emerging countries.

BlackBerry still has a long way to go.


Its smartphone sales continue to be crushed by the iPhone and Android devices, with BlackBerry sales accounting for less than 0.5% of U.S. smartphone sales during the fourth quarter of 2013.

"Cutting expenses buys the company more time," said Colin Gillis, an analyst at BGC Partners. "The company has a clear plan that makes sense to us, the question is whether the broader market will show sustained (or increased) demand for the products and services, or if the changed mobile landscape is going to keep driving rotation away from the platform."