RIM Shares Hit on Weak 1Q Outlook Despite Planned Tablet Launch

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Research in Motion (RIMM) plunged nearly 11% after hours Thursday upon revealing a bleak first-quarter outlook, a sign the company may not be anticipating stronger-than-expected sales of its new PlayBook computer tablet launching next month.

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The cell-phone maker sees first-quarter earnings in the range of $1.47 to $1.55 a share, below the $1.65 expected on average by analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. RIM anticipates revenue for the period in the range of $5.2 billion to $5.6 billion, narrowly below the Street’s view of $5.64 billion.

Despite the weak outlook, the Canadian company’s chief executive, Jim Balsillie, said the company is in an “excellent position” heading into 2012 to benefit from the “continuing convergence of the mobile communications and mobile computing markets.”

RIM, he said, is focused on expanding market opportunity through focused investments. The company announced earlier this week that it will start selling its Apple (AAPL) iPad rival BlackBerry PlayBook in more than 20,000 North American stores on April 19, though the outlook may be a sign the company is not anticipating as strong of sales as predicted by analysts.

RIM saw its revenue climb 36% to $5.6 billion in the fourth-quarter. The company booked net income of $934 million, or $1.78 a share, compared with $911 million, or $1.74, in the same quarter last year. Both results matched Wall Street estimates.

“We are pleased to report record shipments and financial performance in fiscal 2011,” Balsillie said in a statement.

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The sales increase was led by record BlackBerry smartphone shipments during the year of 52.3 million, a year-over-year improvement of 43%. During the quarter, the company shipped 14.9 million BlackBerry phones. Leading revenue was devices, which made up 81% of sales, followed by service at 16%.

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