Research in Motion earnings: Revenue light, outlook strong; BlackBerry shipments surge

Research in Motion's quarter was solid, but fell short of Wall Street's lofty expectations. International sales were strong, but revenue and earnings fell short of expectations. RIM's outlook was upbeat for the first quarter.

Research in Motion's quarter was solid, but fell short of Wall Street's lofty expectations. International sales were strong, but revenue and earnings fell short of expectations. RIM's outlook was upbeat for the first quarter.

The company reported net income of $710.1 million, or $1.27 a share, up from earnings of $518.3 million, or 90 cents a share a year ago. Revenue was $4.08 billion, up 18 percent from a year ago. The problem: For the fourth quarter, RIM is expected to report earnings of $1.28 a share on revenue of $4.31 billion (preview, statement).

On the bright side, RIM's gross margins of 45.7 percent were well above expectations of 43 percent.

Analysts were consistently raising estimates ahead of RIM's earnings reports.

RIM's outlook called for first quarter earnings of $1.31 a share to $1.38 a share on revenue between $4.25 billion and $4.45 billion. Gross margins are targeted at 44.5 percent.

For the first quarter of fiscal 2011, Wall Street expected RIM to report earnings of $1.18 a share on revenue of $4.3 billion.

In a conference call with analysts, co-CEO Jim Balsillie outlined a few of the company's strong points, including a hint of new hardware expected to further drive growth in the second half of the fiscal year. Balsillie wouldn't say exactly what to expect on the 2011, only saying "If you saw the roadmap, you'd be blown away."

Does that mean we'll finally see a decent touchscreen Blackberry?

Balsillie wasn't giving up anything about the roadmap but continued to talk about it throughout the call, calling it "really quite amazing" and "exciting." He was almost dismissive of any inventory issues, calling them "adjustments" and suggesting to analysts that "to interpret that is any kind of weakness is misconstrued."

Among other areas of interest for the company's growth: teenagers, small businesses, Latin America and, of course, China.

By the numbers:

  • For the year, RIM reported net income of $2.46 billion, or $4.31 a share, up 29.8 percent from fiscal 2009. Fiscal 2010 revenue was $14.95 billion, up 35 percent from $11.07 billion last year.
  • RIM added 4.9 million net new BlackBerry subscriber accounts in the quarter. The total subscriber base tops 41 million.
  • BlackBerry annual shipments were up 40 percent from a year ago to 37 million. Fourth quarter BlackBerry shipments were 10.5 million.
  • RIM ended the quarter with cash, short- and long-term investments of $2.87 billion.

Shares were off in afterhours trading on the mixed results:

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