Monday, May 12, 2008

Research In Motion to Start Selling Faster Blackberry Bold


May 12 (Bloomberg) -- Research In Motion Ltd. introduced a BlackBerry phone with quicker Web browsing and more room for songs and videos, getting a jump on a faster iPhone that analysts expect next month. The device, called the BlackBerry Bold, has a brighter screen and better Web browser than previous models, co-Chief Executive Officer James Balsillie said in an interview. The phone, which also has satellite navigation and a video camera, will start selling at AT&T Inc. for $300 to $400 this summer in the U.S., he said. The product sets up a showdown between Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs and Balsillie in the market for so-called third-generation phones, which offer speedier Web access and video downloads. Phones with Internet, e-mail and video are the fastest-growing part of the handset market, with users quadrupling to 400 million in the next three years, RBC Capital Markets estimates.

``You need to provide faster networks, faster processors,'' said Balsillie, 47. Consumers are using ``more and more multimedia'' and ``there are lots of contenders out there.'' Research In Motion, based in Waterloo, Ontario, rose $9.07, or 6.8 percent, to $141.84 at 1:06 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. Apple advanced $4.30, or 2.3 percent, to $187.75. Research In Motion had more than doubled in the past 12 months before today, while Apple is up 72 percent over that span.

Faster Connection

The Bold, which also will go on sale in Europe and Asia, is the first BlackBerry to use high-speed downlink packet access, or HSDPA, a network technology that speeds data delivery. Apple may introduce an iPhone with faster data in June, according to analysts such as RBC's Mike Abramsky. Since the iPhone's debut last June, Apple has seized the No. 2 spot in the U.S. market for so-called smart phones, handsets with computer and Internet functions. The BlackBerry ranks first. To fend off the iPhone, Research In Motion has expanded beyond business customers, releasing devices that have music players and cameras. The new BlackBerry lets users listen to songs from Apple's iTunes music program.

``Where Research In Motion falls short against Apple is in marketing and on the entertainment side,'' Rob Enderle, president of research firm Enderle Group in San Jose, California, said today in a Bloomberg Television interview. ``Where Apple's been moving is on entertainment, particularly video.''

Venture Fund

In a bid to foster new uses for the BlackBerry, the company started a $150 million venture-capital fund with the Royal Bank of Canada and Thomson Reuters Corp., Balsillie said. The fund invests in companies developing smart-phone applications. The Bold has 1 gigabyte of memory, more than any previous BlackBerry. Users can expand it to 8 gigabytes with a memory card. Cupertino, California-based Apple sells the iPhone in 8- gigabyte and 16-gigabyte versions. While Balsillie unveiled the Bold before Jobs showed the new iPhone, the Apple device may still be the one that starts selling first, said UBS AG analyst Maynard Um. Apple, whose iPhone is sold exclusively in the U.S. through AT&T, usually waits to show new products until they are available to shoppers. Research In Motion might benefit from following Apple's introduction because AT&T's rivals are likely to battle the new iPhone with their products, Um said. That may allow the Bold to start selling in a less competitive market later on.

Touch Screen?

With rounded corners, the Bold's design resembles that of the iPhone. Unlike Apple's product, it has a regular keyboard and not a touch screen. Still, Balsillie said he isn't ``religious'' about having a keyboard in the BlackBerry. Analysts say he may release a touch-screen model later this year.

``The BlackBerry design has improved quite a bit,'' UBS's Um said in an interview. ``We are going to see more innovation coming from them.'' Separately, Research In Motion said today it would make it easier to access Microsoft Corp.'s e-mail and messenger programs with the BlackBerry. The BlackBerry dominated U.S. shipments for e-mail phones in the fourth quarter with 41 percent of the market, according to Reading, England-based research firm Canalys. The iPhone had 28 percent and Palm Inc., maker of the Treo, had 9 percent. While Research In Motion dominates the market, Apple may grow faster this year. Apple may more than triple its shipments to 14 million this year from last year's 4 million, RBC's Abramsky estimates. BlackBerry shipments will almost double this fiscal year to 25 million from 14 million last year, he projects. Research In Motion will probably start selling other new BlackBerrys this year, including one that flips open to reveal a keyboard, Toronto-based Abramsky wrote in a note this month. He recommends buying both Apple and Research In Motion shares.

Playboy posts quarterly loss, shares drop

By Robert MacMillan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Adult entertainment publisher Playboy Enterprises Inc posted a quarterly loss on Tuesday because of weaker publishing and domestic television revenue and forecast more trouble during the year, pushing its shares down 8 percent. The worse-than-expected results illustrate the trouble that Playboy and other publishers and television companies face as more people get their entertainment online, and often for free. Its results also show that, at least for Playboy, licensing its bunny ears brand and bachelor lifestyle cachet is proving a more resilient business than the magazine that created them.

"Our publishing and domestic entertainment businesses continue to face unprecedented change in the way consumers access and use media content," Chief Executive Christie Hefner said in a statement accompanying the quarterly results. Hefner forecast the licensing business would grow throughout the year but said Playboy did not expect it to offset the weaker results it anticipates in its media business. The publisher of the iconic men's magazine reported a loss of $3.1 million, or 9 cents a share, compared with a profit of $1.5 million, or 4 cents a share, in the first quarter a year ago. Excluding restructuring and severance charges, the company's loss was 6 cents a share. Analysts' average forecast was a profit of 6 cents a share, according to Reuters Estimates. Revenue fell 8 percent to $78.5 million, missing the average analyst estimate of $85.4 million.

"I think the company has a fantastic brand and I think there's a tremendous opportunity to exploit that brand across multiple platforms, particularly on the location-based entertainment side," said RBC Capital Markets analyst David Bank. "The challenge is to rightsize the other businesses, which aren't really growth businesses." Licensing revenue, not counting an art sale last year, rose 5 percent, helped by a 10 percent rise in revenue from international consumer products. Other businesses did not fare as well. Domestic television revenue fell 16 percent despite growth in monthly subscription revenue at Playboy TV. Publishing revenue fell 14 percent as circulation and ad sales at Playboy magazine fell. Advertising pages in the second quarter will be down 5 percent compared with last year. Online revenue fell 3 percent to $15.2 million because of lower pay site revenue. Hefner said the company is redesigning the Playboy.com website to attract more visitors and create a better portal to its other properties.

"This will be a transitional year as we are still in the investment stage of the retooling process, and results won't be apparent until year-end at the earliest," Hefner said. Playboy shares fell 66 cents to $7.60 in morning trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

Cablevision to Buy Newsday After Outbidding Murdoch

By Gillian Wee and Tim Mullaney

May 12 (Bloomberg) -- Cablevision Systems Corp., the New York-area cable provider, topped offers from Rupert Murdoch and Mortimer Zuckerman to buy Tribune Co.'s Newsday in a transaction valuing the Long Island newspaper at $632 million. Tribune will get $612 million for a 97 percent stake in Newsday, plus an additional $18 million in prepaid rent for some facilities, the companies said in a statement today. Tribune will keep a remaining 3 percent stake worth $20 million. Cablevision plans to use Newsday, located about 7 miles from its Bethpage headquarters, to expand local advertising and subscription businesses. Murdoch's News Corp. dropped a $580 million bid on May 10, saying a purchase was no longer economical. For Tribune Chairman Sam Zell, the higher offer from Cablevision helps him pay down the $13 billion in debt he acquired through his takeover of Chicago-based Tribune last year.

``If Rupert Murdoch, with an adjacent market newspaper and local TV broadcaster, can't see a way to make money at $580 million, it's a stretch to think that Cablevision can make this work at $650 million,'' said Craig Moffett, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., before the announcement. He has an ``outperform'' rating on Cablevision and doesn't own the shares. Cablevision said last week that it wouldn't rule out more acquisitions beyond cable after announcing plans to build a high-speed wireless network and purchase the Sundance Channel for independent films. The Bethpage, New York-based company also owns Madison Square Garden and the New York Knicks basketball team.

Expansion Concern

Cablevision, led by Chairman Charles Dolan and his son, Chief Executive James Dolan, said in today's statement that they will use Newsday to generate ``substantial operating cash flow'' as they expand in local ads and subscriptions. The company's stock dropped 63 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $24.34 at 10:48 a.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading and had risen 1.9 percent this year before today. Gains have been held back on concern over the Dolans' investments outside of their main business, according to Richard Greenfield, an analyst at Pali Capital LLC in New York.

``All they seem intent on doing now is making acquisitions in non-core businesses,'' Greenfield said in an interview today with Bloomberg Television. He raised his recommendation on Cablevision to ``neutral'' last week. ``This is not like buying a brand like Dow Jones or the New York Times. This is a very challenged long-term business.'' Zell, who took control of Tribune last year, is cutting jobs and selling assets to repay debt as print advertising and circulation decline. Tribune is the second-largest U.S. newspaper publisher after Gannett Co. The owner of the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune has $1.85 billion in debt maturing by the end of 2009. The company also plans to sell its Chicago Cubs baseball team and the Cubs' home stadium, Wrigley Field.

Dropped Bid

New York Daily News owner Zuckerman declined to comment on his bid today. News Corp.'s decision to drop its offer came three days after Chairman Murdoch said talks with Chicago-based Tribune were at a ``pretty advanced stage.'' Murdoch, who completed News Corp.'s $5.2 billion purchase of Dow Jones & Co. in December, had planned to combine Newsday's printing and distribution operations with his New York Post. The move would have helped News Corp. increase cash flow by $100 million a year, Murdoch said on a May 7 conference call. Newsday had a circulation of 379,613 in the six months through March, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. That's a 4.7 percent drop from a year earlier. The newspaper had $80 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization last year, a person familiar with the sale talks said last month. Cablevision was advised by Banc of America Securities LLC and Merrill Lynch & Co., as well as Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP and Sullivan & Cromwell LLP. Tribune was advised by Citigroup Inc., McDermott Will & Emery, Sidley Austin and Paul Hastings.