RIM reports increased revenue

The BlackBerry device maker reports that revenue was up in its fiscal fourth quarter, but a negative outcome in an ongoing patent suit could bite into earnings.

Richard Shim Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Richard Shim
writes about gadgets big and small.
Richard Shim
3 min read
BlackBerry device maker Research In Motion reported on Thursday that revenue for its fiscal fourth quarter was up, but a negative outcome in an ongoing patent suit could bite into earnings.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based device and software maker said that for the quarter ended March 1, it recorded revenue of $87.5 million compared with $66.1 million in the same quarter a year ago. The company said it lost $15 million, or 16 cents a share, in the quarter versus a loss of $16.6 million, or 11 cents, in the fourth quarter of the previous year.

Excluding noncash patent litigation fees of $6.9 million, the company's loss for the quarter was $5.7 million, or 7 cents per share.

Analysts were expecting a loss of 12 cents a share, according to a survey from financial research firm First Call.

RIM reported an increase of 71,000 subscribers to its wireless messaging service in the fourth quarter, for a total of 534,000 subscribers. The company sells devices and server software and gets a cut of service revenue for wireless network access. A smaller portion of its business comes from selling radio transmitters.

Handhelds accounted for about 46 percent of revenue, while service made up 41 percent. Software licenses accounted for 6 percent, and radios and other sources made up 7 percent.

The company also reported that fiscal year revenue for 2003 was $306.7 million versus $294.1 million the previous year.

"Despite a conservative enterprise spending environment, our momentum continues in both financial and strategic terms. We achieved record net subscriber growth in the fourth quarter while continuing to control expenses and while maintaining a flat cash position with healthy reserves," Jim Balsillie, chairman and co-CEO, said in a statement.

The company had cash and cash equivalents of $340.7 million as of March 1. RIM also had long-term portfolio investments worth $190 million.

RIM's revenue for the fourth quarter, $87.5 million, came in at the high end of the company's expectations. RIM also raised guidance for its current quarter to $90 million to $100 million from $85 million to $90 million. The company expects to add 70,000 to 80,000 subscribers in the quarter. For its second quarter, RIM gave revenue guidance of $95 million to $105 million.

RIM said it raised outlook because of early indications of sales for the current quarter and new devices and recent partnerships, as well as good subscription rates in Europe and healthy rates in North America.

RIM is embroiled in a number of lawsuits, one of which could affect results for its fiscal year that just ended. The company has been in litigation with holding company NTP over patent infringement. At the end of last year, a jury had ordered RIM to pay $23 million to NTP. RIM appealed the decision. On Feb. 28, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ordered the two companies to begin mediation discussions but did not make decisions relating to damages and injunctive relief. On March 6, RIM said it would set aside an additional $7 million to $8 million for its ongoing case with NTP.

As part of the latest ruling, RIM was ordered to account for sales and services through Feb. 28, for the purposes of determining potential damages. The company is depositing into escrow an amount equal to 5.7 percent of the quarterly infringing revenue and will continue to do so until a ruling is affirmed, reversed or remanded.

If RIM's appeal is successful, RIM will retain the funds in escrow. A ruling by the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia is scheduled for April 15. The company said it will revise its fourth-quarter and fiscal 2003 results if needed.

In another case, a California judge on Thursday threw out a request by RIM for an injunction against rival Good Technology, in the latest installment of a legal battle between the two companies that may be headed toward trial.

RIM shares closed up almost 2 percent, or 26 cents, to $14.46 on Thursday before the earnings announcement. They were up nearly 5 percent, or 64 cents, to $15.10 in after-hours trading.