More than $2bn was wiped from the stock market value of smartphone maker Blackberry on Friday after financial results suggested its bid to join the personal computing revolution had hit the wall.
Wall Street analysts had expected the Canadian company to produce a modest $25m (£16.4m) operating profit but instead the firm revealed a shock $169m loss and missed its sales targets.
BlackBerry has spent the last 18 months evolving its handsets from email machines to internet phones capable of hosting any application from Ebay to Twitter.
But the group shipped just 2.72m of its new generation Z10 and Q10 handsets in their first full quarter on sale, up from 1m last quarter. Wall Street had been expecting an already weak 3m. In total, 6.8m Blackberry handsets were shipped in the three months to the beginning of June, fewer than a year ago and well below forecasts of 8m.
The news shook hopes that chief executive Thorsten Heins, who took control last year from the company's founder Mike Lazaridis, had put BlackBerry on a firmer footing against Apple and Samsung. The heavily shorted shares crashed 27% in three hours, losing every cent gained since January.
"We are doing the right thing," Heins assured investors on Friday. "A transition takes time."
Analysts said BlackBerry was fast running out of options. Overall revenues were up 15% on the previous quarter, but the safety net of monthly subscriptions to its business and consumer services is being whittled away – subscriber numbers fell to 72 million, from 76 million in the previous quarter.
Rumours that Chinese manufacturer Lenovo was interested in acquiring BlackBerry had helped lift its by a quarter since January, and its stock market value stood at $7.6bn on Thursday night. By mid-afternoon on Friday, this had fallen to $5.4bn.
The financial picture was further darkened by a planned currency devaluation in Venezuela, which held back payments from BlackBerry subscribers in the country, and slashed $72m from service revenues.
In its first-quarter results statement, the company said: "The smartphone market remains highly competitive, making it difficult to estimate units, revenue and levels of profitability." As a result, operating losses are expected to continue, with the company forecasting more in the second quarter. BlackBerry still has a cash cushion of $3.1bn, its biggest for three years.
Recent weeks have seen executives depart in key markets. Rob Orr, promoted to UK managing director nine months ago, has left to join Samsung and Sunil Dutt, managing director of BlackBerry's sizeable Indian business, quit in March, 14 months after joining the firm.
Mike Walkley, an analyst with broker Canaccord Genuity, said: "With Z10, Q10, and Q5 all shipping in the August quarter and BlackBerry still guiding to a loss we believe that is strong evidence BB10 has not turned around BlackBerry in an extremely competitive smartphone market."
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