BlackBerry faces investor ire at annual meeting

Executives at Waterloo, Ont.-based Research In Motion faced questioning from investors today at the company's annual general meeting.

RIM shareholders approve motion to change company name to BlackBerry

BlackBerry faces investors

9 years ago
Duration 2:42
RIM shareholders approve new company name and ask tough questions

Executives at Waterloo, Ont.-based BlackBerry faced questioning from investors Tuesday at the company's annual general meeting.

Board chair Barbara Stymiest began proceedings a little after 10 a.m. eastern time with housekeeping matters, including votes on re-electing the company's board of directors, the compensation and stock option plan, and the proposal to change the company's name from Research In Motion to line up with its ubiquitous product, BlackBerry.

All of those motions passed, which means the company is now officially known as BlackBerry.

A question-and-answer period followed the administrative votes, and that's where executives faced some tough questions from shareholders.

Jaguar Financial's Vic Alboini has been a fierce critic of the company in the past, pushing for change. In the Q&A session, he lauded the plan so far, but pressed the management to consider options such as breaking up the company, in order to unlock shareholder value.

"Before you go into any option, you have to create value and the value of the company 15 months ago was way less than today," chief executive Thorsten Heins replied. "We've got to have a strong position in the … market … and then we'll take a look at it."

For now, he said, "I can't distract management from what I expect them to do: get through the transition stage."

BlackBerry shares closed up 10 cents at $10.20 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Tuesday, a sign the market is encouraged by the plan.

The company saw more than a quarter of its market value wiped out after releasing disappointing first-quarter results recently. It posted another quarterly loss, a trend that's expected to continue in the short term.

During its most recent quarter, BlackBerry chief financial officer Brian Bidulka estimated the new devices accounted for about 40 per cent of the 6.8 million smartphones shipped in the company's latest quarter, a total that would represent about 2.72 million devices.

The shipment figures, which offer an idea of how well the phones might be selling, suggested that while BlackBerry has focused much of its efforts on the launch of its new phones, the majority of sales still came from older models, particularly in emerging markets.

Shareholder ire

After housekeeping matters had been completed, Stymiest then turned the floor over to Heins, who laid out more details of the company's turnaround strategy.

He said BlackBerry is in step two of a three-step plan to return to profitability. Step one began the day he was hired as CEO in early 2012 and consisted of streamlining operations and cutting costs. Step two is the rollout of BlackBerry 10 operating system and smartphones, which the company says is the core of its global products from here on out.

The devices are now available in more than 90 countries, and more are being added to the list every day, Heins said.

But Heins said he doesn't expect profitability to return until the next phase, so he urged shareholders to be patient while the company implements his plan.

"We're doing the right things, and we're doing the things we said we'd do" he added.

The third step will see new products come to market, and have the company release its BBM messenging service to Android-powered devices and iPhones.

"We are still in the midst of a major transformation of this company," Heins said.

The shareholder meeting is the first since the company released its new Z10 and Q10 smartphones running the BlackBerry 10 operating system in April.

The new devices have been seen as the company's last hope to turn itself around after losing ground to Apple's iPhone and other Android-powered smartphones.

With files from The Canadian Press