No matter which way you slice it, RIM is still toast

Shares of BlackBerry-maker RIM have skyrocketed. Don't let that fool you, though -- RIM isn't making a comeback.

Ben Parr
Ben Parr is co-founder of #DominateFund, an early-stage venture capital fund; a CNET commentator; and the former co-editor of Mashable.
Ben Parr
2 min read
This is RIM's future.

Shares of Research In Motion, the makers of the BlackBerry, are, by some Thanksgiving miracle, up by a whopping 26 percent this week. Yes, you read that right.

On Monday, shares of RIM were trading on the Nasdaq at $8.69 apiece. Now they're trading at $11.76 per share with no signs of stopping.

Wait, we're talking about RIM, right? The same company that continues to bleed customers and cash like a bad Kung Fu movie? The same company whose outdated BlackBerrys are being tossed aside in favor of iPhones and Androids? And the same company whose savior product -- the BlackBerry 10 -- has been delayed?

Yes, we're talking about that RIM. So why are investors suddenly bullish? For one thing, a prominent analyst at National Bank Financial released a positive estimate on the amount of BlackBerry 10s RIM will ship when the phone goes on sale in February. Instead of 31.6 million units shipped in the next fiscal year, analyst Kris Thompson now says that number will be closer to 35.5 million. He also lifted his price target on RIM from $12 to $15.

RIM ought to send Kris Thompson 35.5 million thank-you notes and a turkey.

RIM has a lot to be thankful for this week. Screenshot by Ben Parr/CNET

Hype also seems to be building around the BlackBerry 10, though its status as a relic really hasn't changed in the tech industry. And Forbes correctly points out that the company's price-to-sales ratio is ridiculously cheap.

It looks as if some savvy investors are betting that RIM is going to fight back next year and improve sales from their painful lows in 2011. It wouldn't be that hard, especially with a new product launching. But if anybody is betting on RIM's long-term prospects, they're clearly not looking at the big picture.

Here's the big picture. Let's start with RIM's first-quarter reports for the last three years:

  • FY Q1 2011: $5.6B revenue, $769M income
  • FY Q1 2012: $4.9B revenue, 695M income
  • FY Q1 2013: $2.8B revenue, -$518M income

And let's look at the second quarter over the last three years:

  • FY Q2 2011: $4.6B revenue, $797M income
  • FY Q2 2012: $4.2B revenue, 329M income
  • FY Q2 2013: $2.9B revenue, -$235M income

In two years, the company's revenue has been divided by half, while it's now posting losses instead of profits for the first time in ages. And yes, while RIM's subscriber base continues to grow (it's at 80 million now), most of those plans are prepaid and "lower tiered plans" outside of North America. The North American market is collapsing like a black hole.

With such a low bar to beat, RIM could certainly reverse things in the first quarter of 2014 (for RIM, that's April-June 2013) with the launch of the BlackBerry 10. But does anybody really think that it's going to regain its former glory, especially in the face of Apple and Google, whose R&D operations are leagues above RIM's?

I hope not. RIM is toast. It's only a question of how long it takes.