BlackBerry to fire 4,500, write down $960 million in inventory

Research in Motion (RIM) President and CEO Thorsten Heins introduces a new RIM Blackberry 10 device during the launch in New York on Jan. 30, 2013.  Blackberry Ltd. is preparing a round of deep staff cuts by the end of 2013 and could lay off as much as 40 percent of its employees, the Wall Street Journal cited people familiar with the matter as saying on Wednesday.
SHANNON STAPLETON | REUTERS
Research in Motion (RIM) President and CEO Thorsten Heins introduces a new RIM Blackberry 10 device during the launch in New York on Jan. 30, 2013. Blackberry Ltd. is preparing a round of deep staff cuts by the end of 2013 and could lay off as much as 40 percent of its employees, the Wall Street Journal cited people familiar with the matter as saying on Wednesday.
Posted Sept. 20, 2013, at 7:12 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 20, 2013, at 7:35 p.m.

TORONTO — BlackBerry Ltd., the smartphone maker that’s evaluating a sale, will cut 4,500 jobs and record an inventory writedown of as much as $960 million after a new set of devices failed to catch on with consumers.

The company, based in Waterloo, Ontario, expects to report a net operating loss of as much as $995 million for the fiscal second quarter, according to a statement Friday. Sales in the quarter were about $1.6 billion — just more than half the $3.03 billion average estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

The company sold about 5.9 million smartphones in the quarter, it said. BlackBerry had 12,700 employees as of the end of March, the last time it has reported a figure. The inventory writedown is mostly based on the value of Z10 touch-screen devices, the company said.

The adjusted second-quarter net loss will be as much as $265 million, or 51 cents a share, compared with the average analyst estimate of 16 cents.

Chief Executive Officer Thorsten Heins was counting on the new BlackBerry 10 phones — introduced in January to good reviews — to reverse a sales slide, return the company to profitability and make the brand hip again. Instead, its market share continues to slide and BlackBerry remains unprofitable. Corporate customers such as Morgan Stanley are holding off on upgrading to the new platform, concerned that the company won’t be around to support the devices, people familiar with the matter said last month.

The writedown extends a streak of inventory charges, which were previously spurred in part by the ill-fated PlayBook tablet. The company took a pretax expense of $485 million in December 2011, a second charge of $267 million the following March and a third writedown of $335 million in June 2012.

Still, BlackBerry continues to introduce new products. In addition to the Q10, Z10 and Q5 released so far this year, BlackBerry this week introduced the Z30, a model with the company’s largest screen yet. It goes on sale in the U.K. and Middle East starting next week.

BlackBerry has hired accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP to evaluate the company for potential buyers, according to two people with knowledge of the move.

A team of accountants and lawyers from the New York-based firm have been working at BlackBerry since August, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the contract hasn’t been made public.

It previously hired Perella Weinberg Partners LP as an adviser — alongside its bankers at JPMorgan Chase & Co. — to help explore its options, a person familiar with the decision said earlier this month.

 

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