BlackBerry looking mighty tasty as RIM reports record Q4 earnings

iPhone who?, Research in Motion's Q4 2009 earnings report seemed to say on Thursday, as the Canadian firm's forth-quarter earnings report showed that the time is now for sales of its BlackBerry smartphones. The 50 millionth BlackBerry handset, in fact, shipped during the 2009 fiscal year just ended.

Not just to the usual business suspects, either. Co-CEO Jim Balsillie said on Thursday's earnings call that 70% of the 3.9 million new BlackBerry subscriber accounts launched in Q4 were non-enterprise accounts, and that 50% of all accounts now are held by consumers. In turn, he said, the company is changing to offer the sort of things consumers find appealing: social networking, e-commerce, music and the like.

RIM reported revenue of $3.46 billion (up 84% year-over-year) and net income of $518.3 million during the quarter ending February 28, working out to 90 cents per share. That blows past analysts' expectations of 84 cents/share and revenues of $3.42 billion, and represents a 26% year-over-year gain.

For fiscal year 2009, the company took in $11.1 billion in revenue, garnering $1.9 billion in net income, up from $6.0 billion and $1.3 billion respectively. Per-share earnings for FY 2009 were $3.30.

RIM shipped around 7.8 million devices in Q4 and around 26 million during fiscal year 2009. 88% of RIM's revenues are from handset sales, with software (2%), services (12%) and miscellany (3%) making up the rest.

One-third of the BlackBerry account base resides now outside North America, Balsillie said, noting that Latin America is the fastest growing of all international markets. The strength of international sales isn't news to observers of the mobile-phone space, but it's interesting to note that RIM is blazing ahead in those markets while companies such as Nokia, which haven't managed to make a splash with smartphones, are struggling.

As is usual on these calls, there were some interesting tidbits that fell out in the course of the conversation. For instance, RIM's obviously not abandoning its business users anytime soon. One of its most appealing applications is actually geared toward real-estate agents -- it'll unlock those key-holding lockboxes for home-viewing purposes.

And there was talk as well Quickplay Media's just-announced PrimeTime2Go service, which will allow for downloads of TV programming to SD cards over Wi-Fi for BlackBerry Bold and Curve 8900 owners.

Looking ahead, RIM predicts Q1 revenue betwen $3.3 billion and $3.5 billion, gross margins of 43-44%, and per-share earnings of 88-97 cents. The market got frankly a bit giddy at the good earnings news, shooting RIM's shares up over 22% in after-hours trading. At press time, the stock was up to 60.00 after closing the day at 49.09.

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