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Blackberry Z10 sales fail to impress analysts

Early forecasts being revised downward

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It’s no exaggeration to say that the future of BlackBerry, the renamed Research in Motion, is hanging on success of its new BlackBerry smartphones, the Q10 and, particularly, the Z10. Revised forecasts from a number of market watchers suggest the troubled company has not yet put its woes behind it.

Earlier this week, two analysts - Pacific Crest’s James Faucette and Canaccord Genuity’s Mike Walkley - separately revised their tallies for the total number of Z10s sold during the current quarter downward. Both estimate around 300,000 Z10s will have been sold worldwide by the end of March.

Walkley had previously forecast 1.75 million Z10s will be sold, but “follow-up checks have indicated steady but modest sales levels”.

Faucette added: “We continue to believe the Z10 launch involves relatively small shipment volumes and only moderate sell-through so far in markets which have historically been some of BlackBerry’s strongest.”

Both believe incoming Android phones - Walkley mentioned the Samsung Galaxy S IV, but there's the new HTC One too - will make it very hard for Blackberry to shift lots of Z10s. What it does sell, suggested Faucette, will come at the cost of Bold 9900 sales “which our checks indicate have declined materially since the Z10’s launch”. In short, the Z10 isn’t going to boost Blackberry’s overall sales significantly.

Not every analyst has such a bleak view. Peter Misek of Jefferies & Co reckons Z10 sales will top 500,000 units during the quarter, though that’s still well below the million-plus forecasts other analysts have made - and well below Walkley’s previous prediction.

Misek said his checks showed the Z10 selling out at various locations, though Walkley insisted “limited initial supply [was] cited as the reason for early post-launch stock-outs at some carrier stores rather than overwhelming demand”. Other analysts have said the same thing.

US carriers aren’t going to be selling subsidised Z10s until mid-March, but once they do, sales will leap, Misek suggested, to 4 million units worldwide during April, May and June combined. He admitted that figure is above the Wall Street average, which Faucette put at 3-4 million for Q2. Faucette himself reckons Blackberry will shift only 1-1.5 million Z10s.

And that’s going to hit Blackberry hard, he said. “To achieve sustained profitability, we believe the company would need to ship roughly 3-4 times more BB10 devices than we anticipate on a quarterly basis. We remain skeptical that BlackBerry has any reasonable path toward achieving these kinds of shipments.” ®

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