BlackBerry revival stalled by 'disappointing' Z10 sales

Shares fall after analyst report says US sales of new handset and BB10 operating system are sluggish

LAST UPDATED AT 13:08 ON Tue 26 Mar 2013

BLACKBERRY'S attempts to claw back market share from Apple and Samsung have taken a hit after reports of lacklustre sales of its new Z10 handsets in the US sent its shares plummeting.

The Daily Telegraph reports that the embattled Canadian company (formerly known as Research In Motion) has been "talking up" sales of the Z10 since last month's launch, even claiming that stocks of the new phone were running low. But the bullish mood - which saw shares in the company climb by 36 per cent this year - has been punctured by a Goldman Sachs report describing US sales as "disappointing". The report, which concludes that the Z10 has only a "20 per cent chance of success", prompted Goldman to slash its investment rating on the company from buy to neutral. That caused BlackBerry shares to fall as much as 9.4 per cent to $14.64 on Friday, the biggest one-day decline since the end of January.

The author of the report, Goldman analyst Simona Jankowski, said the international launch of the Z10 – in Canada and the UK – was "solid", but weak sales in the crucial US market are worrying. A Goldman survey of more than 20 US retailers since March 22 revealed "a surprising lack of marketing support and poor positioning of the product", she wrote.

Analysts seem increasingly sceptical that the much-vaunted Z10 and BlackBerry's "make-or-break" BB10 operating system can change its fortunes and help it challenge Nokia and Microsoft for "third place in the smart phone wars", says The Guardian. In the face of stiff competition from Apple's iPhone, Samsung's Galaxy S series and Google's Nexus, some doubt whether the company will be able to "continue and turn the corner to profit".

The Z10's fortunes have not been helped by the "lack of support" for the BB10 platform from application developers such as Instagram and Netflix, says Forbes. The magazine claims the handset's "weak battery performance" has also been an issue. Some customers have returned their handsets, citing the lack of apps as the main reason, and retailers have moved the Z10 to "less favourable positions in their stores".

BlackBerry will issue its fourth-quarter financial results on Thursday, its first financial report since the launch of the Z10. Analysts will "pore over" the results to get a sense of the new BlackBerry's forward momentum – as well as "a cold, realistic look at the state of the company's comeback", reports the Globe and Mail. · 

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