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BlackBerry revenue slips below $1bn as users shun BB10

Chen plots return to keyboard-phones to woo back corporates

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BlackBerry's revenue slipped below a billion dollars in the fourth fiscal quarter for the first time since 2007, as its smartphone sales continued to slide, but its losses were slightly less than expected.

The ailing Canadian firm reported a net loss of nearly $6bn for the year up to the start of March and a loss of $423m for the quarter. The adjusted loss was eight cents a share, but analysts polled by Thomson Reuters were expecting a loss of 55 cents a share.

Revenues were just $976m, less than the $1.11bn analysts were anticipating and down a whopping 64 per cent from a year earlier. The firm also saw its cash position worsen, with its reserves dropping to $2.7bn from $3.2bn in the previous quarter. Blackberry sold 2.3m legacy phones and 1.1m BlackBerry 10 devices in the last quarter. With no new devices in the channel since last autumn (and really, since last summer, since the Z30 was hard to track down), the poor sales aren’t a surprise.

BlackBerry is completing a 40 per cent reduction in its workforce as its comeback products failed to take off. Despite this it still made a loss, in part due to changes in the value of its debt. It also burned through some of its cash pile, leaving $2.7bn of cash and assets in the bank. Loss from operations was $148m before tax.

Despite the continued troubles at the firm, investors were happy enough at the smaller losses to push the company's share price higher after the announcement, though not by very much. The firm put all its eggs in the BlackBerry 10 basket - the new model that was supposed to lift the firm out of the doldrums, but its older models continue to outsell the shiny new stuff.

Chief exec John Chen said in a conference call today that the firm was going to start a new production run of Bold devices on the older BlackBerry 7 platform, since demand for them was still strong.

In an interview with Reuters, Chen also said that the company's engineers were toying with three different next-generation designs for new high-end smartphones that would focus on lovers of BlackBerry's keyboard.

The keyboard was always a top selling point for BlackBerrys, particularly for its core customers - corporations and governments. The firm's attempts to move into touchscreens have failed miserably as it struggled to win over customers already into touchscreens, who were on Apple and Android, and lost the customers who just wanted a phone with a physical keyboard.

BlackBerry boasted today it had reduced inventory by 30 per cent in the quarter, and operating costs by 51 per cent from a year ago. Revenue was down 18 per cent from last quarter and 64 per cent down from a year ago.

BlackBerry says it hopes to break even by the end of Fiscal Year 2015 - four quarters away. ®

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