x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

BlackBerry finds hope in Middle East

The maker of BlackBerry has reported that it more than doubled sales of handsets in the Middle East amid a gloomier global outlook for the smartphone brand.

The maker of BlackBerry has reported that it more than doubled sales of handsets in the Middle East amid a gloomier global outlook for the smartphone brand.

Shares in Research In Motion (RIM),the maker of BlackBerry, slumped last week after the company reported a quarterly loss of US$125 million (Dh459.1m).

The Canadian company shipped 11.1 million smartphones between January 1 and March 31, a 21 per cent decline on the previous quarter.

But in the Middle East, RIM increased handset shipments by 119 per cent in the last 12 months.

"If you look at the Middle East, we have grown by [almost] 120 per cent over the last year," said Sandeep Saighal, the managing director for RIM in the Middle East. "The story here was very good … The launch of all the BlackBerry 7 devices was very, very successful," he added.

The company said its data was based on analysis by the research firm GfK and was "an accurate snapshot" of RIM's share of the market.

Mr Saighal said he expected the growth in sales to continue at the same rate during the next 12 months.

"In a lot of territories outside of the US … there has been a big uptake," he said. "I expect the growth to continue at the same pace."

Reasons for the growth include cheaper BlackBerry plans offered by regional operators.

While RIM's overall financial performance has suffered, it has fared better in markets such as the Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific.

The company says 68 per cent of its business is now outside the North American and British markets.

Even so, growth in BlackBerry sales in the Middle East is slowing. Last October, the company said its sales had increased 140 per cent.

RIM has suffered from competition at the hands of rivals such as Google and Apple.

It has also endured disappointing sales of its PlayBook tablet, which has failed to rival products such as the iPad.

RIM sold more than 500,000 PlayBooks in the fourth quarter, but many were sold at heavy discounts.

Last week, Thorsten Heins, the new chief executive at RIM, who took over from the team of Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis in January, suggested that the company would focus more on corporate customers.

Mr Saighal said that media reports suggesting that the company was abandoning the consumer market were misleading.

"This is a bit of a misinterpretation," he said.

"There's a bit of a refocus on the enterprise business. [But] we will continue to be in the consumer business whether it's globally or in the Middle East."

bflanagan@thenational.ae