RIM's under-pressure management team may be signaling for outside help.



WATERLOO, Ontario (TheStreet) - Thursday's third-quarter conference call from Research in Motion(:RIMM) marked a stark change in the tone from the embattled handset maker, which may be signaling for outside help.

The Canadian firm, which has been rocked by delayed product launches and increasingly fierce competition from Apple(:AAPL) and Google(:GOOG), offered up weak outlook after market close on Thursday.



Speaking during the conference call, RIM co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis announced they are taking a $1 a year salary, and were adamant about finding ways to curb the sharp decline in the share price.

RIM's shares tanked more than 11% on Friday as investors baulked at the firm's ongoing problems. The stock has plunged more than 76% during 2011.

Inevitably, there has been plenty of chatter that another company could salvage all or part of RIM.

ThinkEquity analyst Mark McKechnie speculated on several names in a research note, saying Amazon(:AMZN), Microsoft(:MSFT) or Apple(:AAPL) might "benefit from RIMM's deep wireless data patent portfolio, carrier and enterprise deployments, and hardware expertise."

Microsoft is a name that has been rumored about in the past, but so far nothing has come to fruition. Shares ticked up in the earlier part of December on chatter that Microsoft was looking at the company. Since December 2, shares have fallen 27.5%.

On Thursday RIM also explained that it's undertaking an initiative dubbed "Core", which includes cost and efficiency improvements. Lazaridis said that RIM would have an update on its Core initiative next quarter.

Jim Suva of Citigroup asked about the restructuring efforts, and Balsillie said that it's "absolutely not business as usual at RIM. We're going to do what it takes to get the value for shareholders in the company, and we're totally redoubling our efforts on the execution here."

Balsillie and Lazaridis have traditionally struck a defiant tone during RIM's earnings events. The latest conference call, though, was different, with the executives acknowledging the need for vastly improved strategic direction.

RIM announced, however, that it will delay the launch of BlackBerry 10 (formerly QNX, and BBX) phones until the "latter part of 2012", representing yet another blow for the company. RIM has been losing market share to Apple's iOS and Google's Android operating system, with U.S. revenues declining in the third quarter.

Despite its challenges, RIM's still worthy of investor attention, according to Sanford Bernstein analyst Pierre Ferragu. "As management's current denial position is getting less and less tenable and as they committed yesterday to explore multiple strategic opportunities, we see too much upside risk to recommend a short position to investors and maintain our market-perform rating," he explained, in a note released on Friday. Sanford Bernstein has a $16 price target on RIM's shares.

Ferragu's not alone in seeing some light amidst the RIM gloom. Leon Cooperman of Omega Advisors, for example, has purchased a 1.4 million share stake in the company, as he hopes "they've RIM seen the worst." Cooperman noted RIM's vast intellectual property as part of the investment thesis.

Interested in more on RIM? See TheStreet Ratings' report card for this stock.

--Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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