While the signs are pointing to strong demand for Research In Motion Ltd.’s (RIMM) pending touchscreen BlackBerry Storm, the smartphone appears to still be undergoing the network qualification process at Verizon (VZ), which could push its launch into late November or even later, according to RBC Capital Markets analyst Mike Abramsky.
Black Friday, which falls on the Friday after Thanksgiving, is considered the beginning of the traditional Christmas shopping season. This year it falls on November 28. The Vodafone U.K. Storm launch is expected on November 11, while the BlackBerry Bold is set for November 4 with AT&T (T).
RBC’s checks with carriers in the U.S. and abroad show BlackBerry momentum in September and October slowing ahead of new product launches. Meanwhile, initial sales checks for the flip Kickstart at T-Mobile are improving but still moderate.
These factors suggest third quarter subscriber numbers for RIM will be at the low end or below guidance of 2.9 million, Mr. Abramsky told clients. He noted that the quarter is heavily back-ended as the company must gain an estimated 40% of subscribers in November to meet its forecasts.
At the same time, Storm and Bold sales could help RIM beat its quarterly revenue and earnings per share guidance of $2.95-billion to $3.1-billion and $0.89 to $0.97, respectively.
While RIM shares have already corrected to 13 times forward 12-month earnings, Mr. Abramsky said these developments will likely contribute to more volatility in the near term. He continues to rate the stock at “sector perform” with a $90 price target.