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RIM hit by plummeting sales, prices and profits, announces layoffs

Once a rising star among smartphones, Canadian Blackberry maker Research In Motion announced sharply lower profits related to product delays an intense competition, pushing it to sack workers while the market attacked the company's valuation.

RIM announced to investors that its first fiscal quarter revenues of 2012 were up 16 percent over the previous year-ago quarter, but that growth paled in comparison to the 113 percent annual growth Apple reported on the back of iPhone sales in its most recent quarter.

However, RIM's earnings were down for the year and sequentially, reaching just $695 million this quarter compared to $934 million in the previous quarter and $768 million in its year ago quarter.

The rest of the smartphone industry has been expanding by an average of around 70 percent, leaving RIM's shortfall a particular anomaly. The company blamed new product introductions and delays for its weak earnings, and said the same factors would lead to "a lower than expected outlook in the second quarter," in the words of co-chief executive Jim Balsillie.

Balsillie added, "RIM’s business is profitable and remains solid overall with growing market share in numerous markets around the world and a strong balance sheet with almost $3 billion in cash. We believe that with the new products scheduled for launch in the next few months and realigning our cost structure, RIM will see strong profit growth in the latter part of fiscal 2012."

Reacting to the disappointing performance in the quarter, RIM said it would "begin a program to streamline operations across the organization, which will include a headcount reduction." The company also announced a share repurchase program, which enables a company to return capital to its shareholders, a move made when a firm sees shoring up its stock price as more important than investing in its own growth.

In April, RIM had announced a readjusted outlook calling for just 13.5 to 14.5 million Blackberry devices to be sold during the quarter, but it failed to meet even that lowered expectation, with unit sales reaching just 13.2 million.

In contrast, Apple sold 18.65 million iPhones in its most recent quarter (which does not align exactly with RIM's).

In 2008, Apple's chief executive Steve Jobs announced in the company's third quarter results that "Apple beat RIM" in its unit sales, noting that "RIM is a good company that makes good products. And so it is surprising that after only fifteen months on the market that we could outsell them in any quarter."

RIM did announce higher shipments for its PlayBook tablet than analysts had expected (500,000 vs 400,000), but following its announcements investors failed to see much upside potential in that new product, trading the company down in value by more than 15 percent.