RIM caps 'wonderful' year, CEO says

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TORONTO -- BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. has capped a "wonderful year of progress" and expects to continue its strong growth in the future, its co-chief executive told shareholders Tuesday.

"Really, in every respect that I can think of ... it's up and to the right," Jim Balsillie said at the company's annual meeting, his remark paralleling the graph of RIM's stock price over the last 12 months.

The company, whose smartphones have become a staple of executives, politicians, lawyers and other professionals, broke the 9 million-subscriber mark in the past fiscal year.

"It took us over five years to get to our first million subscribers, so the miracle of compounding is really taking effect," he said at the meeting, which was Webcast from Waterloo, Ontario, where RIM is based.

For the year ended March 3, 2007, RIM's revenue rose to $3.04 billion from $2.07 billion a year earlier. Profit jumped to $631.6 million from $374.7 million in the same period.

Its market capitalization, at $42.8 billion, is now bigger than that of mobile phone giant Motorola Inc., thanks to a share price that has gone from about $70 on the Nasdaq a year ago to $230.07 today.

New handset additions to its lineup get almost-unanimous applause from analysts and reviewers, and the rosy outlook RIM provided to investors last month suggests it remains unfazed by competition from the likes of Apple Inc.'s iPhone.

"We do expect growth and continued generation of cash from operations through this fiscal year," Balsillie said.

The BlackBerry is available on about 300 networks in 120 countries. The next frontier for RIM and its competitors is the broader retail market. While it's ubiquitous among the business crowd, the BlackBerry has yet to gain widespread acceptance among consumers.

To help change that, some of its carrier partners offer the multimedia-laden BlackBerry models -- the Pearl and the Curve -- as phones only. Later, customers are offered a chance to upgrade their plans to more-expensive data service plans.

A brief outage of BlackBerry service in April rattled investors' and customers' nerves, but the stock rallied as soon as the company said it had dealt with the issue.

On Tuesday, RIM shares rose CAN$4.19 to CAN$240.29, on the Toronto Stock Exchange. On Nasdaq, they rose $3.53 to $230.07.
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