The war between bearish and bullish reports on BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) has been intense since January. The short interest is above 30% and on the other hand, bulls are expecting an historical short squeeze. Contradictory reports have emerged such as one describing strong demand for Z10 at launch and others saying that the demand was low although the methodology seems to be flawed.
Most of the announcements made share a common bias: they're based on distant personal communication in a very limited number of stores. To clarify the situation, we need more unbiased reports, such as sales from a nation-wide seller. Herein, I take advantage of the recent launch of the BlackBerry Q10 to report nation-wide sales in France based on SFR data.
SFR is a French telecom company that provides mobile phone, landlines, internet and television services to consumers and businesses. As of 2012, it has 21 million customers and is the third most important company on the French market. I chose SFR because it's the only large company to allow users to display mobiles based on "Best selling" criterion. Indeed, neither Free nor Orange allow that. Moreover, it allows a comparison with sales of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android devices, as they're also available for purchase at SFR.
Q10 is selling better than Samsung S4, HTC One and iPhone 5.
My methodology was the following: I went to the SFR website and then into the mobile section. Then I displayed the results based on "Meilleures ventes" (= "best-selling"). Here is the result.
First of all, the iPhone 5 is found only on page 3 (16Go version). It might be due to the fact that its price (169€) is significantly higher than competitors. In comparison, HTC One is sold for 59€ and Samsung Galaxy S4 which is sold for 79,99€.
Second and probably most importantly, the BlackBerry Q10 is the top selling smartphone at SFR, ahead of Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One respectively. Although the demand might be very strong due to its recent launch, Q10 already released more than two weeks ago, and this could not only be due to an effect of "the first hours". Another element that reinforces this hypothesis is the sales of the Z10.
Z10 is outselling the iPhone 5.
Although one might expect that strong sales of the Q10 are just due to its recent release, the Z10 sales don't account for that hypothesis.
Indeed, the Z10 was released in February in France and is present on the second page of the website when you rank based on best-selling phones. Not only the Z10 sells better than Sony Xperia Z, and LG Optimus, but its sales are stronger than the iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy S3.
Most reports are performed by asking subjective opinions of a very limited number of retailers. In the present report, I tried to eliminate some of these biases by looking at sales of a nation-wide retailer, SFR. Although there are still biases present in this article (such as the fact that I couldn't rank sales of Orange and Free), this is so far the only study that addresses BlackBerry sales based on objective facts obtained from a retailer that represents more than 20 million customers.
If similar trends were to be observed at other operators, this could have serious implications about BlackBerry success. We'll probably have a confirmation of the Z10 sales next month when BlackBerry will report their Q1 results. Confirmation of the Q10 performance will have to wait until September.
If I had to conclude in one sentence, it would be that it's increasingly risky to bet on BBRY's failure, especially after this objective report.
Disclosure: I am long BBRY. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.