BlackBerry maker's sales and profits double

Results for the maker of the BlackBerry beat Wall Street's expectations and company raises guidance; stock spikes after-hours.

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By Catherine Clifford, CNNMoney.com staff writer

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Research in Motion, the maker of the BlackBerry, reports strong fourth quarter results.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Research in Motion, the maker of the popular BlackBerry wireless device, said fourth-quarter profits and sales both doubled over the same quarter last year, thanks to strong gains in subscribers.

The results beat analysts' forecasts and the stock shot up more than 5% after-hours. The company also issued guidance for its first quarter that was better than Wall Street expected.

Sales grew 102% to $1.88 billion for the quarter that ended March 1. According to Thomson Financial, analysts were expecting revenue of $1.86 billion.

Net income rose 120% to $412.5 million, or 72 cents per share, beating the consensus estimate of 70 cents per share.

For the full fiscal year, the maker of the BlackBerry said revenue totaled $6 billion, up 98%, while net profits rose 105% to $1.3 billion.

Shares of Research in Motion (RIMM) have rallied sharply since late February after the company said that net subscriber account additions for the fourth-quarter would be 15% to 20% higher than the 1.82 million additions the company had previously expected.

The company hit the high end of that range, reporting 2.18 million new subscriber additions for the fourth quarter.

Jim Balsillie, Co-CEO at Research In Motion, boasted about the company's growth. He said in a statement that the company saw "net subscriber account additions growing more than 32% over the previous quarter and well over 2 million net subscriber accounts added in a single quarter for the first time." Research in Motion finished the quarter with more than 14 million subscribers.

Research in Motion also told Wall Street it expected its first quarter results to be much better than forecast. The company said sales should be in the range of $2.23 billion to $2.3 billion, well above analysts' expectations of $2.02 billion. Earnings should be between 82 cents and 86 cents a share, much higher than the 76 cents that analysts predicted.

Research in Motion's BlackBerry smartphone has been a hit with both corporate customers and consumers. But the company faces formidable competition from Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) and its iPhone, Nokia (NOK) and Motorola (MOT, Fortune 500).

One analyst suggested that Research in Motion has been doing a better job of attracting retail customers lately though. And Balsillie admitted as much in the earnings release.

Historically, the subscriber breakdown for the BlackBerry is two thirds corporate versus one third consumer, said Nick Agostino, an analyst for Research Capital Corp., in a conversation prior to the earnings release Wednesday.

But Agostino added he thinks the split is now moving closer to 50-50 between corporate users and individual consumers.

The increase in consumer use means that holiday promotions are very good for the company, Agostino said after the company's conference call after the earnings release. The fourth quarter included both Christmas and Valentine's Day, which were popular for consumers buying red and pink BlackBerries.

During the call, Balsillie said that one of the most exciting statistics in his mind is that Research in Motion hit the 1 million mark for Facebook downloads on its devices. He said that while previously, the BlackBerry has been used for only by corporate employees, now the wireless devices are becoming used in more mainstream markets. "These are very very good omens," he said.

Agostino said that this young, consumer demographic is very valuable for Research in Motion. "Enterprise has been the traditional network for the Blackberry and now you are tapping the consumer," he said. If you can get the consumer to use the platform when they are young, the goal is that you have a dedicated user who will go through multiple replacements and upgrades.

Edel Ebbs, Vice President of Investor Relations for Research in Motion, said on the conference call after the earnings release that they are expecting a lot of consumers to be coming off their two year service plans in the coming months looking to upgrade thier handheld devices.  To top of page

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