Not Quite Off the RIM

A few months back, I wrote that a fair value for the stock of Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) might be $37 a share. A few days ago, a reader asked me whether I stood by that so-called target price. The answer is yes ... sort of.

None of us Fool writers set target prices; instead, we look for undervalued businesses. I wouldn't call RIM undervalued, not by a long shot, and the latest reprieve in its patent tussle with NTP doesn't change that.

According to Friday's edition of The Wall Street Journal, Federal Judge James R. Spencer tentatively decided not to issue an injunction that would have shut down the popular BlackBerry wireless email service. Research In Motion's stock jumped more than 8% on the news. Which prompts me to ask: Has anything changed in terms of RIM's investing thesis?

Here's a list of what's new:

  • A judge hasn't shut down the BlackBerry service. Yet.
  • The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has tentatively rejected the NTP patents that are at issue in the dispute, though final decisions aren't likely to be forthcoming for many more months, according to Reuters.
  • A so-called workaround for the BlackBerry service that supposedly avoids NTP's patent has been created. (Though, according to the Journal, it could take up to two million man-hours to implement in the U.S.)

I know, these developments look promising over the near term. Maybe they are. But absolutely nothing is set in stone. And that leads me to one more question: What, if anything, do these developments have to do with Research In Motion growing sales, earnings, and cash flow? Probably not much, though RIM may be able to temporarily reassure some of its customers. Wow. That's some consolation prize.

Look, I know it feels like I'm the landlord who gets sadistic pleasure from telling the kids upstairs to keep it down. But the stock trades for 36 times trailing-12-month free cash flow, while competitor Palm (Nasdaq: PALM  ) trades for a relatively lower 18 times. Meanwhile, uncertainty over the future of the BlackBerry has left it vulnerable to competitors such as Good Technology, Visto, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) , and Palm. Finally, there are the legal risks, exactly none of which have been eliminated. (Lawyers quoted in the Journal write-up say that it's likely Judge Spencer will use the threat of an injunction to force a settlement.)

In other words, this BlackBerry is starting to smell a lot like rotten fruit. And I've suddenly lost my appetite.

Thumb your way to related Foolishness:

  • This brouhaha should have been all over in March.
  • Could the addicts get off the CrackBerry if they tried?
  • Maybe Oprah doesn't have the magic touch when it comes to stocks.

Palm is aMotley FoolStock Advisorrecommendation, while Microsoft is aMotley FoolInside Valuerecommendation.

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Fool contributorTim Beyersoccasionally struggles with his Treo 600, but he wouldn't trade it for anything. Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. You can find out what is in his portfolio by checking Tim's Foolprofile. The Motley Fool has an ironcladdisclosure policy.


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