The Anatomy of a Tech Giant's Fall From Grace: Research in Motion's Problems Are Far From Over

Reggie Middleton's picture

Research in Motion has been one of the most successful tech shorts of this blog's history (thus far). We first recommended a short last year and reiterated it in the fist quarter of this year. Reference:

  1. BoomBustBlog Research Performs a RIM Job!

  2. BoomBustBlog's Fundamental/Forensic Analysis of Research in Motion Has Returned 2x-3x Original Investment This Year!!

 This is a snapshot of RIMM as of the writing of this article...


As you can see, the results have been spectacular, particular if well timed puts have been put to use. In January I posted:

I personally see a clear leader in mobile computing becoming visible in 2012. Using options, a minimum of 2012 expiration OTM and ATM contracts can be purchase at the most optimistic break points demarcated by the model above after being populated with assumptions you feel most valid. I will have a proprietary BoomBustBlog option model available for download to paying subscribers by the end of next week, at which time we will revisit the analysis above.

A 50% drop in price later... On that note, Bloomberg reports: RIM to Cut 2,000 Jobs as BlackBerry Loses Share to IPhone

Research In Motion Ltd., maker of the BlackBerry smartphone, plans to cut 2,000 jobs, or about a tenth of its workforce, as sales slow amid market share losses to Apple Inc.’s iPhone.

The reductions, across all functions, are part of a plan to “focus on areas that offer the highest growth opportunities,” RIM said today in a statement. The job cuts will leave the Waterloo, Ontario-based company with about 17,000 employees.

RIM predicted last month that sales this quarter may drop for the first time in nine years. The company is losing market share in the U.S. to the iPhone and handsets running Google Inc.’s Android software, in part because it hasn’t introduced a major new BlackBerry model since August. Cheaper Google phones are also making inroads in Latin America, Asia and Europe, threatening the popularity of less expensive BlackBerry models like the Curve.

... RIM fell 85 cents, or 3.1 percent, to $27.06 at 10:26 a.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The stock had dropped 52 percent this year before today.

The headline grossly mischaracterizes RIM's problems. Google's Android has, by far, inflicted much more damage to RIM than Apple ever has. This was easily seen over 13 months ago, at least by BoomBust Bloggers, referencing BoomBustBlog Research Performs a RIM Job!...

Page 5 of our Research in Motion forensic analysis (released in the summer of 2010 - File Icon RIMM Forensic Analysis and Valuation – Professional & Institutional or File Icon RIMM Forensic Analysis and Valuation – Retail) clearly stated that while we expected RIMM’s handset shipments to rise as a result of a rapidly expanding smartphone market, it will lose considerable market share....

As it turns out, it appears that we were erred slightly to the optimistic side with an 18% market share estimate for 2010. By the end of the 3rd quarter, RIM has fallen to 15.3% according to information calculated from IDC, and its decent has accelerated far faster than even we (the bears) have anticipated – a full 350 basis points for the quarter. This is 6x the decent of last quarter and 7 x the decent of the quarter before that. It is quite safe to assume that they will be materially below this point at year end (the data that we crunch is lagged by a quarter). This market share loss is most assuredly caused by the outsized growth of Android, which I will demonstrate in a minute. Below are charts generated from an updated version of the subscriber document File Icon Smartphone Market Model – Blog Download Version:

As you can see above, for the full year of 2010 RIM has trailed smartphone market penetration growth and that trail has increased each and every quarter with the rate of decent rapidly increasing.

RIM’s share price has benefited from an increasing equity market as well as the announcement of new products. The Torch, although possessive of redeeming new qualities, is essentially still a generation behind Apple and 1.5 generations behind Android. See RIM Smart Phone Market Share, RIP?

Research in Motion is following the EXACT path we at BoomBustBlog had laid out for it since the 3rd quarter of 2010.

This story is far from over, primarily because we are just entering the chapter in which Android does what it does best, and that is compress margins. Due to the unique open source component of the Androd business model, it actually slashes prices and spikes the technology bar both simultaneously and quite rapidly. So rapidly that not only is it without precedent, but literally tramples all over Moore's law.

Moore's law describes a long-term trend in the history of computing hardware. The number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years.[1] This trend has continued for more than half a century and is expected to continue until 2015 or 2020 or later.[2]

The capabilities of many digital electronic devices are strongly linked to Moore's law: processing speed, memory capacity, sensors and even the number and size of pixels in digital cameras.[3] All of these are improving at (roughly) exponential rates as well (see Other formulations and similar laws). This exponential improvement has dramatically enhanced the impact of digital electronics in nearly every segment of the world economy.[4] Moore's law describes a driving force of technological and social change in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.[5][6]

The law is named after Intel co-founder Gordon E. Moore, who described the trend in his 1965 paper.[7][8][9] The paper noted that the number of components in integrated circuits had doubled every year from the invention of the integrated circuit in 1958 until 1965 and predicted that the trend would continue "for at least ten years".[10] His prediction has proved to be uncannily accurate, in part because the law is now used in the semiconductor industry to guide long-term planning and to set targets for research and development.[11]

It is safe to say that Android chops the half-time to obselence implied by Moore's law by at least 50%, with a doubling of capabilities happening annually, and arguably even every two quarters. This has not gone unnoticed by those who are paying attention. The truly remarkable feat is that prices are simultaneously dropping towards zero out of pocket cost to the consumer. How does RIMM compete with that? Well, the same way all of Android's other competitos will if Android isn't significantly slowed down - again from Bloomberg's article:

‘Margin Pressure’

“Thorsten, with his Siemens background, is known as somebody who is exceptionally operationally efficient,” Shah said. “That’s a positive for the upcoming margin pressure that is likely.

You see, Bloomberg didn't go into detail regarding this phenomena, but luckily BoomBustBlog did more than just a little detail on the margin compression thesis, and for good reason. This will be the theme that will drive this industry to produce unprecendented functionality for the retail consumer and entperprise alike while simultanesouly putting those who can't compete at light speed with decreasing margins out back to the wood shed, metaphorically speaking, of course:

Those that chose to follow this short recommendation had plenty of tools to assist in the decision making:

RIM Model Assumptions

RIM Model Factors Driving Growth

After populating the assumptions tab, jump to the “Factors Driving Growth” tab and choose the player whose market share and penetration data you want to populate the valuation model for the sake of comparison. The choices are “Nokia”, “RIMM”, “Apple”, “HTC” and “Others”. This tab is annual data only.

RIM Model Quarterly Factors (driving growth)

On the next tab, you can do the same as the previous (this tab is quarterly growth). Each of the growth tabs has charts that are print and presentation quality. Just be sure to tell everyone where you got thesis, data and analysis from :-) .

Other tabs in the model…

RIM Model Income Statement

RIM Model Device Market Analysis

RIM Model Revenue Analysis

RIM Model Device Revenues

Valuation and Multivariate Scenario Output

Final output is RIMM’s valuation using our analytics and your assumptions as input in the assumption tab above, as well as a multivariate scenario analysis showing changes in quite a number of variables (assuming all others remain the same) and their effects on your base valuation, as well as the percentage upside/downside from the current price.