You know that something wicked this way comes when a company halts trading right before releasing news. That's what Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) did on Thursday night. Trading of RIM's shares were halted at 4:15 Eastern, the report hit the wires about 20 minutes later, and the market opened up at 5:10 with a roar of disapproval. At its worst, share prices plunged 8.5%.
So what's the big news? It breaks down into three parts.
The bad: RIM missed Wall Street's estimates for sales and earnings. BlackBerry units shipped slid in at the bottom end of management's own forecast. Even worse, those estimates weren't all that rosy to begin with. We're looking at a 24.6% year-over-year revenue slide and a hair-raising 55% drop in earnings.
The ugly: Management will stop giving out financial guidance. Investors are getting less clarity than ever because management can't possibly hand out specific targets given the sorry state of RIM's business and the cutthroat market it works in.
The good: Yes, there is an upside here. New CEO Thorsten Heins and Chairwoman Barb Stymiest are getting serious about healing what ails RIM, and the report included farewells to several high-level executives. The biggest of these was former co-CEO and co-Chairman Jim Balsillie, who has left the board entirely and has no further ties to RIM, except for a large number of shares.
This may sound cold-hearted, but I've been waiting for Balsillie to leave. Alongside former co-chief Mike Lazaridis, who remains aboard as vice chairman of the board, the duo did untold damage to the company they founded by reacting slowly or not at all to a changing industry. Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) killed the old RIM years ago with their iPhone and Android smartphones; It just took the corpse a few years to fall over and stop moving. The gap between the two front-runners and RIM just keeps growing -- BlackBerry is even losing its stranglehold on enterprise accounts to iPhones and Androids.
I was afraid that Heins would simply stay the course into even deeper waters, but if this housecleaning signals a whole new direction, maybe there's still hope for the Canadians. I'm ending my bearish CAPScall on RIM right now to harvest my gains after the price drop and to get out of the way in case there's a turnaround brewing tonight. In this fast-moving trillion-dollar industry, you have to adjust your investing strategy when the winds are turning.