RIM ready for battle in smartphone war, analyst says

An analyst says RIM's upcoming modesl of BlackBerry 10 phones are better than the current generation iPhone and many Android devices, something that could be enough to propel the stock higher.

Early BlackBerry 10 reviews suggest devices outperform iPhone 5 and Android phones

RIM's BlackBerry 10 line of smartphones could be enough to reverse the company's fortunes, a Scotia Capital analyst said in a research note Tuesday. (Berthold Stadler/dapd/Associated Press)

Research in Motion's upcoming models of BlackBerry 10 phones are better than the current generation iPhone and many Android devices, something that could be enough to propel the stock higher, according to an analyst at Scotia Capital.

In a research report on the company issued Tuesday. Scotia analyst Gus Papageorgiou upgraded his rating on the company to "outperform," citing the company's upcoming line of BlackBerry 10 smartphones as having the technical prowess to help RIM defend its turf and even expand in the highly competitive cellphone market.

"We believe RIM has a good chance at convincing some old users to come back to the platform and bring in some new users as well," Papageorgiou said. He upgraded his target price for the stock to $23.

That's well ahead the $17.53 level where RIM shares were trading at on the TSX on Tuesday afternoon. After a prolonged decline, RIM shareholders have seen the value of their stock erode from over $140 in the summer of 2008, to bottom out a little over $6 a share last September.

Since then, the shares have been on a tear, almost tripling to within range of $18 currently.

Papageorgiou cites many reasons for the recent optimism around RIM. "Compared to the iPhone 5, BB10 has a faster browser, superior screen resolution, more memory, and the ability to multi-task," he said in the research note. "Initial reviews even show its voice command outperforming Siri. The only area it falls short is in app selection, but we believe most of the top 100 apps will be there."

Papageorgiou says he expects RIM will sell 29.8 million BlackBerry 10 smartphones next fiscal year. And that's on top of more than 21 million units of the older BlackBerry 7 line of phones.

RIM currently has 79 million subscribers. While they have a declining market share in the key North American market, they are expanding in many other parts of the globe. Papageorgiou expects about a third of current BlackBerry customers will upgrade to the new phones.

BlackBerry customers typically replace their units every 15-16 months or so, but that figure has crept up to about 25 months, on average, as customers have been waiting for new offerings from the company.

"We think street expectations are too low, the company can deliver meaningful earnings on the back of relatively small smartphone volumes, and that BB10 does have longer-term potential," he wrote. Although he adds there are "considerable risks" to RIM's outlook, especially ahead of the closely watched product launch, "we would be buyers of the shares," he says.