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Blackberry shares tumble 20% after surprise quarterly loss

Canadian company blamed part of losses on Venezuelan currency restrictions

Investors punished BlackBerry yesterday, driving its shares down by about 20 per cent even before the US stock market opened after the company posted a surprise quarterly loss, dashing hopes of a turnaround as it hawks new products with the aim of competing with the likes of Apple and Samsung.

The Canadian company, whose shares tumbled further when trading commenced, said that for the quarter ending 1 June, it had a loss of $84m. The result was much improved from the same quarter last year – but the shares fell because analysts and investors had been anticipating a profit. The company, which has launched a new operating system called BlackBerry 10, along with a new line of phones to catch up with rivals, blamed part of losses on Venezuelan currency restrictions without which, it said, it would have been closer to breaking even. Smartphone sales were higher, rising by 13 per cent compared to the previous quarter, when customers were waiting for the new line of phones.

“During the first quarter, we continued to focus our efforts on the global roll out of the BlackBerry 10 platform,” BlackBerry’s chief executive Thorsten Heins said. “We are still in the early stages of this launch.”

The new phones include the touch screen Z10 and the Q10, which features a mini keyboard. It is also launching a cheaper device called the Q5. Yesterday’s release did not include a breakdown of how many of the new devices it had sold.

“We haven’t received the BlackBerry 10 unit numbers yet, but certainly it doesn’t bode well for the initial BlackBerry 10 launch, particularly the Z10. But even the outlook for a [second quarter] loss doesn’t bode well for the Q10 either,” Morning star analyst Brian Colello told Reuters.