TORONTO - Shares of Research In Motion Ltd. jumped nearly 14 percent Friday as investors seemingly grew more optimistic about a February launch of the Canadian company's much-delayed BlackBerry 10 smartphone.
RIM will release the latest version of its smartphone "not too long" after a Jan. 30 launch event, Kristian Tear, the company's chief operating officer, has said.
The new phones are seen as critical to RIM's survival as the smartphone pioneer struggles in North America to hold on to customers who are abandoning BlackBerrys for flashier iPhones and Android phones.
The Waterloo, Ontario, company seems to be preparing for a February global launch, a month earlier than many analysts were expecting, according to Kris Thompson, an analyst with National Bank Financial, a Canadian bank. Thompson raised his shipments forecast for RIM for fiscal 2014 in a research note this week.
Thompson also increased his price target for the BlackBerry maker's stock to $15 from $12.
RIM shares on the Nasdaq closed up $1.40, or 13.65 percent, to $11.66 Friday in an abbreviated trading session on Wall Street.
Thompson's outlook was bolstered by RIM's new management team, which he said is maintaining the BlackBerry smartphone subscriber base and managing costs and cash.
He said certification of the new BlackBerrys by wireless carriers is the key risk to his prediction and estimate of BlackBerry shipments. Carrier certification, which tests the new devices, can take time.
The new BlackBerry 10 system is designed for the touch screen, Internet browsing and apps experience that customers now expect. RIM's current software is still focused on email and messaging, and is less user-friendly, agile and robust than iPhone or Android.
Earlier this week, a prominent tech analyst gave RIM's new operating system a small but improved chance of success. Analyst Peter Misek of Manhattan-based Jefferies & Company said he's still giving the BlackBerry 10 operating system only a 20 percent to 30 percent probability of success.
RIM was once Canada's most valuable company with a market value of more than $80 billion in 2008, but the stock has plummeted since, from more than $140 per share.