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What if Goldman Sachs Is Right About RIM?

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Research In Motion (NASDAQ: BBRY  ) shares are moving higher today after a notable analyst upgrade.

Goldman Sachs analyst Simona Jankowski upgraded shares of the smartphone pioneer from neutral to buy, pushing the firm's price target on RIM from $9 to $16.

It's easy to argue that Goldman Sachs is late to the party. Since bottoming out at $6.22 two months ago, the stock has nearly doubled. Why wait this long? It's not as if there was ever any doubt that BB10 wouldn't be out early next year. It's not as if investors haven't known about the bar-raising features for months.

And -- to be fair -- it's not as if even Jankowski feels the rollout early next year of BlackBerry 10 will likely be a hit. She actually argues that there's only a 30% chance in BB10 succeeding, and that's already accounting for the wireless carrier support for the platform and the initial positive buzz that the operating system update is getting.

The upside
RIM is a gamble, but the payout if that 3-in-10 wager pays off can be huge. If BB10 is a hit, she feels that the company could earn as much as $3.08 a share. At 10 times earnings we'd be looking at the stock nearly tripling past $30 at this point, and that multiple may be conservative.

If -- and that's a big if -- BB10 makes RIM a force again, why wouldn't the company be worthy of a profit multiple in the mid-teens like Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) or Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) ? After all, success would mean that it's not just Apple's iOS and Google's Android cornering the market. Why stop at $31? RIM would likely be trading closer to $40 if Jankowski's upside forecast is on target. Then again, why stop there? If BB10 is a hit, it will mean that Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) Windows Phone 8 was not -- and that Mr. Softy will be paying $50 a share or more for RIM to make sure that it's a force in the "good enough" computing revolution that will be continuing to crush its PC software business.

The downside
If -- and that's a small if -- BB10 flops, the stock will naturally crater back into the single digits.

The losses that analysts are already forecasting for this year will widen. The $2.3 billion -- or more than $4 a share -- in cash that RIM has on its balance sheet will shrink. The intellectual property won't be worthless, but it will degrade over time.

If BB10 is a flop, it doesn't mean that Microsoft's Windows Phone will be a hit. It will likely mean that Apple and Google have continued to corner the market with little room for a bronze medalist. Microsoft won't rescue RIM if it's a loser, even at $5 a share. It would already have its own homegrown clunker.

However, there comes a point where Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) would be a potential suitor for RIM. It is HP -- and not Microsoft -- that's hurting the most as consumers move away from clunky desktops, laptops, and printers. It's HP that overpaid for Palm. It's HP that got allegedly bamboozled by Autonomy.

Despite taking its lumps, HP is arrogant enough to think that it could take BlackBerry and turn it around by marketing it to its enterprise customers.

So, the downside isn't zero. The bottom for RIM comes down to how much HP would be willing to pay for a broken company if BB10 is a failure.

Feast or famine for RIM
It's easy to write RIM off after seeing its slice of the smartphone market cut in half over the past year.

The company isn't selling as many smartphones as it used to, and revenue is fading fast. However, the company still closed out its latest quarter with roughly 80 million global subscribers. The popular theory is that many of those BlackBerry users will simply move on to Android devices or iPhones as their contracts run out, but many will give BB10 a shot.

Existing Android and iPhone owners aren't likely to switch to RIM, and that's a problem that's also dogging Microsoft at this point. However, the vast majority of the world is still using traditional feature phones, if they have mobile phones at all. There's always a shot to go after them before they fall into the creature comforts of the iOS or Android ecosystems.

So Goldman Sachs isn't necessarily crazy here. Sure, the optimism would've been more lucrative two months ago when the stock was selling for the price of a burger, but it doesn't make it a bad bet here.

Yes, it's a bet. It's a risky bet. RIM won't be in the pre-teens by this time next year. It will be south of $5 if BB10 is a dud. It will be north of $20 if BB10 is a hit. There is no middle ground.

It's time to take a stand as an investor.

RIM shot
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Read/Post Comments (2) | Recommend This Article (0)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On November 29, 2012, at 7:51 PM, CZZZZZZ wrote:

    A lot has happened in the past 2 months.

    Notoriously harsh critics got their hands on the BB10 phones and raved about it. If it was anything less than spectacular they would have massacred it.

    Carriers are backing BB10. I think today if you asked sales staff at a carrier or electronics store they would give you sarcastic look if you asked for a Blackberry device, sounds like that attitude will change.

    Developers are coming on board. Those that have actually worked with BB10 are raving about it, this is another crowd thats hard to please.

    I don't care for GS but they appeared to make an informed decision based on plenty of evidence. They may be one of the only analysts not completely botching RIMM target price analysis, let's face it, the last 6 months they have all been completely wrong.

  • Report this Comment On November 29, 2012, at 9:38 PM, Arthur1111 wrote:

    RIMM has become a good investment since their last earning. It is not a bet anymore. Big investors such as Yacktman and Watsa have doubled their investment in RIMM lately. There is a reason why these guys are super rich.

    If you wait until BB10 launch or even after the Dec 20 earning, it may become too late as big institutions will jump in quicky and the stock price spike.

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