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RIM shares fall after launch of new smartphone line delayed

Research in Motion has seen its shares tumble after it delayed the launch of its new line of BlackBerry smartphones.

RIM shares were down more than 11 percent in early trading on Friday after its latest delay in its new line of smartphones, which has seen some analysts questioning the BlackBerry maker's ability to recover.

"RIM confirmed the BlackBerry 10 smartphones will be delayed until the latter part of calendar 2012," analysts at Canadian brokerage National Bank Financial said.

"This could be game over for the BlackBerry franchise."

RIM said this week it did not expect to release the new line of smartphones, equipped with its new QNX operating system, until late next year, long after its initial promise of a first-quarter delivery.

"We see a high risk that this is too late to turn around RIM's position and believe the risk of further delays is meaningful," Nomura analyst Stuart Jeffrey said.

"Even in the best case, however, it seems unlikely RIM will have large volumes of its BB10 devices on sale within 15 months."

RIM's quarterly profit dropped sharply and it expects holiday sales to be so poor that it forecasts its first quarter-to-quarter decline in six years during the crucial holiday sales season.

The Canadian company has been counting on the new QNX operating system to make up ground lost to Apple Inc's iPhone and iPad and the slew of devices that use Google's Android software.

RIM's gloomy outlook comes just two weeks after the company warned that it would fall short of its already lowered fiscal 2012 expectations, due to weak sales and a large write-down of inventories of its unloved PlayBook tablet, which was once seen as a potential threat to Apple's iPad.

The constant stream of bad news from RIM over the last year has driven its shares to lows not touched since early 2004, and it has led to analyst and investor demands for RIM's co-chief executives, Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, to step down.

"Either the existing CEOs must update their thinking or bring in a new CEO to lead the company out of the darkness and back into the sunshine before it is too late," said independent analyst Jeff Kagan.

Canaccord Genuity cut its price target on RIM's U.S.-listed shares to $15 from $18, citing the delay in the launch of BlackBerry 10 and the company's plans to spend more on sales and marketing to help sustain interim sales.

Barclays shared similar concerns about the company's projected investments in marketing and loyalty programs to regain "mind" share.

"Benefits of the investments are not guaranteed but are likely to keep RIM's operating margins at sustainably lower levels through 2012 and 2013," Barclays said.

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