Research In Motion faced the music from shareholders at its Annual General Meeting, held on Tuesday in Waterloo at Wilfrid Laurier University’s campus auditorium.
The company’s declining fortunes have been impossible to ignore as of late, even with CEO Thorsten Heins’ insistence that RIM is not in some sort of “death spiral.” Despite job cuts, operating losses and another delay of BlackBerry 10, the boss tried to put a positive face on things.
When Heins and his executive team hosted the shareholders’ meeting, the spin was tested by drained investors looking for some good news.
Barbara Stymiest, RIM’s new chair of the board, asserted that she knew shareholders were frustrated with the situation but stressed patience. “We understand that the company’s performance has not met expectations,” she said. “For the board’s part, we remain committed to the management team.”
The 300 or so at the meeting weren’t as taken with the new board as Stymiest seemed to be, however, and that led to a relatively confrontational Q&A session highlighted by one investor’s insistence that none of the members of the old board should remain.
After the formal part of the meeting, Heins took to the stage and acknowledged the problems the company faces. “I want to assure you I am not satisfied with the company’s performance over the past year,” he said.
With precious few details, Heins went on to outline the plan for the year ahead. He noted that the new BlackBerry 10 phones would hit stores in early 2013 and highlighted some of the company’s cost-saving measures, including the recent rash of layoffs and more layoffs to come. RIM will, by the time the dust settles, have seen almost a third of the company out of work.
External manufacturing facilities are also expected to face the chopping block, going from 10 to three. Outsourcing will also be part of the plan, with its global repair services going out of house.
“The benefits will take time to have a meaningful impact on our performance,” Heins said. “As I’ve said we do expect the next several quarters to be challenging…as we go through the transition to BlackBerry10.”
With trouble coming in the next few months, Heins asserted that RIM had the cash on hand to handle the tumult. It did report having $2.2 billion in cash on hand, so it is possible for the company to weather the storm for a while. But without a new product and some serious changes in the tide, riding out the calamity won’t be enough to transform RIM’s slide.
The shareholders didn’t seem convinced, with one even joking that the lack of refreshments at the meeting served as an indication as to how things are really going at RIM. It will take more than talk to reverse the trend and more than optimism to put the once-proud Canadian company back into the public’s good graces.