Shares of Research in Motion Ltd. (NASDAQ: RIMM) topped $10 briefly today, the first time the stock has been at such a lofty perch since late June. The occasion was a stock upgrade from ‘underperform’ to ‘hold’ by one of RIM’s most closely watched analysts, Peter Misek of Jefferies & Co.
The term ‘underperform’ is relative of course. Since the heady days in 2008 when RIM’s stock traded around $145 a share, $10 a share still indicates a significant underperformance. From a seemingly unassailable position at the top of the smartphone ladder, RIM was blindsided by the iPhone from Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) and kicked on the way down by the blizzard of new phones based on the Android operating system from Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG).
Misek’s upgrade appears to be based on the results of a survey of mobile carriers like AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Wireless, a joint venture between Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and Vodafone plc (NASDAQ: VOD). Misek told clients in a note cited at Reuters:
Preliminary results from our quarterly handset survey indicate developed market carriers have a much more positive view of BB10 [BlackBerry 10] than we expected.
How come Misek didn’t expect a positive view? Probably because he thought the new BlackBerry 10 would generate a big “Who cares?” if anyone noticed at all. What he might have forgotten is that mobile carriers have been hoping and asking for competition for Apple and Google for a long time now.
The carriers don’t care who wins, just as long as whoever does poaches some share from the big two. More competition means lower subsidies to consumers and bigger profits to the carriers.
The Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) alliance with Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) is viewed just as favorably as the new RIM handset and operating system. In fact, a betting man might say that if Microsoft is really committed to a place at the table in mobile, then it will spend some serious money on the new Nokia phones.
RIM can’t match Microsoft’s cash hoard, so it will have to depend on corporate customers who haven’t already deserted the company. But how many of those are left, now that corporate IT departments have begun to buy into the ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) model?
If everything goes RIM’s way, Misek thinks the stock will be worth $43 within 12 months. We’ve said before that hope is not a strategy, and that’s all this is — hope.
RIM’s shares are up about 4% today at $9.97 in a 52-week range of $6.22 to $18.77.