Investors in Research In Motion (NYSE:BB) had the misfortune of seeing their stock decline more than 23% in 2012. In the midst of a massive overhaul, the beleaguered tech company saw continued market share erosion along with unexpected delays in its saving grace, its new BlackBerry 10 operating system. Though the year as a whole saw a major decline, it may come as a surprise that the stock gained nearly 72% in the final three months of the year. 2013 will (finally) be the year of the company's first major release in a long time and should act as an early bellwether for management's turnaround efforts. Should RIM be a part of your portfolio in 2013?
RIM released its fiscal third quarter earnings late in December when some investors had already checked out for the year. The company managed to beat revenue expectations of $2.66 billion by a substantial $70 million. While it was still a year-over-year decline of roughly 47%, the company nonetheless beat the Street. On the bottom line, EPS came in at a loss of $0.22 per share, beating expectations of a $0.36 per share loss. Those numbers were buoyed by a healthy 30.4% gross margin. Most importantly for a stock in deep turnaround, the company maintains nearly $3 billion in cash, with no debt, to continue its recovery.
Despite the seemingly good news, though, the stock ended down the day of the earnings release. Why? Management noted in the press release that it may cut its service fees in order to retain customers in the interim, which worried some investors and analysts who are clinging to the valuable service fee revenue.
Research In Motion may not have been the turnaround story of 2012 (nor may it be that in 2013), but I believe the company was able to prove at least one thing -- it is not the dying star that it was believed to be just six months ago. CEO Thorsten Heins is working hard to prop up the company and bring it back to tech relevance.
So, depending on when one invested, Research In Motion was either tough to stomach or a highly valuable stock pick in 2012. But that's over, so what's on tap for the new year?
For one thing, as mentioned, the company is rolling out the highly (and long-) anticipated BlackBerry 10 operating system and Z10 smartphone. Currently in beta testing, the new phone and accompanying software have managed to make positive first impressions. The official public launch is Jan. 30, but much information has already been gleaned by the tech world.
The Z10 device will likely be larger than the competing iPhone, and will be full touch like its competitor and many of Samsung's Android phones. Regardless, though, of early tracking, RIM has the nearly impossible task of getting consumers to favor its new device and software over that of Apple and Samsung. The two smartphone leaders have, by this point, long passed RIM in desirability. As we all know, once the consumer gets a concept in their mind, it is a mighty task to undo it.
The stock will likely get a boost at month's end on the release of the new phone, yet prospective investors may want to wait until a bit later in the year to see pre-order numbers. In the fiscal third quarter, the company shipped 6.9 million BlackBerrys and 255,000 PlayBook tablets. Where that number will be a year from now is anyone's guess.
One Fool's opinion
I believe that Research In Motion may have its first rising stock price year since 2009-2010. Much more important to note, though, is that this is still early on in the turnaround process. I will not be one to expect major, life-changing events for the company in 2013. Remember what guru investor and RIM's largest individual shareholder, Prem Watsa, has said multiple times—this is a long-term play, five to seven years -- if not more. If you are looking for a quick play on a deep-value stock, this is not the place for you.
As for those who are comfortable with a long-term investing horizon and the inherent risks, RIM may be near its best price for some time. The stock did gain major ground in the final stretch of 2012, but I am not expecting too much of a correction, as its previous pricing was absurdly undervalued. As always, do your homework and do not invest outside of your comfort zone.
Fool contributor Michael B. Lewis has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.