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    Thursday, December 15, 2011

    Reuter site - Angry Birds maker eyes 2013 Hong Kong IPO: report

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    Angry Birds maker eyes 2013 Hong Kong IPO: report

    Thu, Dec 15 23:03 PM EST

    HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finnish gaming firm Rovio, creator of "Angry Birds," the world's most popular computer game, is planning an initial public offering on the Hong Kong stock exchange in 2013, Finnish weekly Tekniikka&Talous reported on Friday.

    Rovio's marketing chief Peter Vesterbacka told the paper the aim is to build the company into a media firm which would have a market capitalization similar to that of Walt Disney Co, whose shares are valued at $65.3 billion.

    "That is the target. There is no reason why we should not be able to build a company of that size," Vesterbacka was quoted as saying, adding Rovio's 2011 revenues would be around $100 million, compared with $10 million a year before.

    In May Rovio Chief Executive Mikael Hed told Reuters the firm was aiming for a stock market listing in New York in 2-3 years time.

    Unlike most mobile game crazes, Angry Birds, in which players use a slingshot to attack pigs who steal the birds' eggs, has stayed atop the charts since it was launched for Apple's iPhone in 2009.

    It has reached a record 600 million downloads in two years, compared with rival Electronic Arts' hit game Tetris which reached 100 million mobile downloads last year.

    Rovio has unveiled two more Angry Birds games and Vesterbacka told the paper in 2012 the firm would launch 5-6 more games with the same characters.

    Rovio is also expanding the brand across traditional merchandising to items such as toys and playgrounds, and is taking the birds to the big screen.

    Vesterbacka told the weekly the first full-motion animated movie featuring the characters was still 2-3 years away as film-making is a long process.

    Earlier this year, Rovio raised $42 million from venture capital firms including Accel Partners, which previously backed Facebook and Baidu, and Skype founder Niklas Zennstroem's venture capital firm Atomico Ventures.

    Rovio was founded in 2003 after three students including Niklas Hed -- CEO Mikael Hed's cousin and now Rovio's COO -- won a game-development competition sponsored by Finnish mobile phone maker Nokia Oyj and Hewlett-Packard CO.

    (Reporting By Tarmo Virki; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)


    Reuter site - RIM delays QNX phones, offers dismal outlook

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    RIM delays QNX phones, offers dismal outlook

    Thu, Dec 15 19:34 PM EST

    By Alastair Sharp and Euan Rocha

    TORONTO (Reuters) - Research In Motion posted a sharp drop in profit on Thursday, offered a dismal outlook for BlackBerry shipments around Christmas and delayed the likely arrival of a make-or-break overhaul of its smartphones, sending its shares tumbling.

    RIM's shares shed more than 7 percent after the company said it did not expect to release a line of BlackBerrys equipped with the new QNX operating system until late next year, long after its initial promise of a first-quarter delivery.

    It was the latest in a long series of setbacks for a company that once dominated the smartphone market but, to the chagrin of investors, is now struggling to keep pace with the innovations of Apple Inc and other rivals.

    To make matters worse, RIM said it would ship just 11 million to 12 million smartphones in the weeks around Christmas, a range that lines RIM up for the first quarter-to-quarter decline in six years during the crucial sales season.

    The likely drop bodes poorly for RIM as it was banking on an improved BlackBerry 7 line, equipped with the legacy operating system, to stem defections until it could release the QNX line.

    "The matter that they turned in a bad quarter shouldn't come as a shock to anybody," said John Jackson, an analyst at CCS Insight in Boston. "I think the more important issue for RIM is that it is highly unclear exactly when they're going to be able turn things around."

    The Waterloo, Ontario-based company has been counting on the new operating system to make up ground lost to Apple's iPhone and iPad and the slew of devices that make use of Google's Android software.

    RIM's market share, particularly in the United States, has steadily eroded and its share price, down about 73 percent this year, has followed suit.

    During a conference call with analysts, RIM explained that the QNX delay was necessary so it could make use of more powerful and energy-efficient chipsets expected to arrive in mid-2012.

    "By then the ecosystem runs the risk of being abandoned," said Colin Gillis, an analyst at BGC Partners in New York.

    "They've already got tepid developer support and then they're going to be rolling out these phones right smack in the (midst) of an iPhone 5 (launch) most likely," he said, referring to the next iteration of Apple's smartphone.

    The dismal holiday outlook for between 11 million and 12 million smartphones compares with 14.1 million in the previous quarter and 14.8 million in the Christmas quarter last year.

    "If consumer demand slows for their product the stuff is going to sit there and we could start seeing the ratcheting-down of units shipped and that's the big concern," Gillis said.

    Even if RIM hits the high end of its Christmas quarter shipment target it will ship fewer BlackBerrys in this fiscal year than the previous one, the first ever such decline.

    RIM's co-chief executives Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, in an apparent bid to cool investor anger at their leadership, said they agreed to take an immediate pay cut to $1. The pair are also RIM's two largest shareholders and share the chairmanship of the board.


    Most of the numbers posted by RIM on Thursday were in line with a warning made by the company on December 2, including a huge writedown on unsold inventory of its unloved PlayBook tablet or a charge for an embarrassing global service outage in October.

    RIM turned in an adjusted profit at $667 million, or $1.27 a share, in its third quarter ended on November 26.

    The Canadian company generated revenue of $5.17 billion, sliding from $5.5 billion a year earlier.

    Analysts on average had expected RIM to earn $1.19 a share on sales of $5.27 billion after the company's warning.

    In the third quarter a year earlier, RIM made $911.1 million, or $1.74 a share.

    The intervening year has been mostly downhill for RIM, which made its name with secure, reliable communications for the world's business and government elites before branching out into a now-crowded consumer market.

    For the current quarter, RIM expects to turn a profit of between 80 and 95 cents a share on revenue of between $4.6 billion and $4.9 billion.


    Including the $485 million pre-tax writedown on discounted PlayBook inventory and a $54 million charge related to the outage, RIM made a third-quarter profit of $265 million, or 51 cents a share.

    It said it now has almost 75 million subscribers, up from the more than 70 million it reported at the end of its second quarter.

    "They're still adding a lot of subscribers, but they're not selling enough phones," said Tavis McCourt, an analyst at Morgan Keegan. "Are customers just going to upgrade to the iPhone and Android or are they really that loyal where they're going to wait for a better BlackBerry?"

    The stock fell to $14 in after-hours Nasdaq trade, after closing at $15.13. In February, just ahead of the PlayBook's launch, RIM shares changed hands for as much as $70.

    (Additional reporting by Cameron French, Allison Martell, Jon Cook and Claire Sibonney; Editing by Frank McGurty)

    'It gets's about to go down' HOV

    Reuter site - RIM activist renews call for leadership change

    This article was sent to you from, who uses Reuters Mobile Site to get news and information on the go. To access Reuters on your mobile phone, go to:

    RIM activist renews call for leadership change

    Thu, Dec 15 09:59 AM EST

    By Euan Rocha

    TORONTO (Reuters) - Research In Motion faced renewed calls for a change in its leadership on Thursday, hours ahead of the quarterly results that could fuel criticism over the BlackBerry maker's poor performance and sagging share price.

    Jaguar Financial, an activist shareholder that has asked the BlackBerry maker to sell itself in whole or parts, once again called on two of RIM's independent directors to push for a separation of the roles of chairman and chief executive.

    For months, Jaguar and other dissident shareholders have pushed for the replacement of Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, who share both top roles. The two are RIM's largest shareholders and the most powerful figures in its management.

    "It strains credibility to believe that a CEO requires the title of chairman to sell RIM products but the RIM directors have apparently bought into this unconvincing rationale," said Jaguar, which has claimed support of investors that hold about 8 percent of the stock.

    Shareholder discontent with RIM centers around its poor performance in the face of stiff competition from Apple Inc's iPhone and iPad, and devices powered by Google's Android system. The BlackBerry's market share has been steadily eroding, while the PlayBook, RIM's late entry in the tablet market, has generated anemic sales.

    The latest call for change comes ahead of RIM's third-quarter results announcement, due after the close of regular trading hours.

    RIM has already warned the market that it will take a big hit on its unsold PlayBooks in this quarter and that it will ship fewer smartphones in the current quarter than in the third quarter, which just ended. The warning has pushed RIM's share price to its lowest since 2004.


    Graph on RIM's 2012 EPS


    "At this point we believe investors have lost faith in the ability of the RIM management team to carry out a proper game plan to restore value," said Jaguar CEO Vic Alboini in a statement.

    "Jaguar believes that the road map to value restoration lies in a sale of RIM whether as a whole or in separate parts."

    The group called on RIM to sell its handset business and monetize its patent portfolio, while retaining its service business under new leadership.

    Jaguar argues that RIM has lost its ability to compete in the consumer hardware segment. A sale or spin-off of the business would help restore value to shareholders, it says.

    Jaguar, which invests in underperforming and undervalued companies, sees RIM's service business as RIM's most valuable business given its recurring revenue and high margins.

    In its statement, Jaguar called on two of RIM's independent directors, Barbara Stymiest and Roger Martin, to initiate some drastic changes in governance at the beleaguered smartphone maker.

    Stymiest, a former chief operating officer at Royal Bank of Canada, also served as TSX Group's chief executive. Martin is the dean at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.

    "They should step up and take the lead in making dramatic governance change or else resign from the board if they are unable or unwilling to initiate appropriate governance changes," Jaguar said in a statement.

    Shares of RIM, which closed at $15.08 on the Nasdaq on Wednesday, were down 12 cents at $14.97 in early trading on Thursday. Its Toronto-listed shares were down 21 Canadian cents at C$15.48.

    (Additional reporting by Maneesha Tiwari in Bangalore)

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