BlackBerry's Z10 smartphone may not do as well as originally expected, several analysts say after reviewing early sales figures.
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BlackBerry is on pace to sell about 300,000 BlackBerry Z10s during the first quarter of 2013. That number is just a fraction of what analysts first predicted, though they remain bearish on BlackBerry's comeback chances.
Canaccord Genuity analyst T. Michael Walkley slashed his forecasts from 1.75 million unit shipments during the first quarter to just 300,000. Walkley cut his estimates, in part, because the device didn't launch until February 1, reducing the time it is available to consumers during the quarter.
The device first went on sale in the U.K. and Canada at the beginning of the month. Initial sales suggested that demand for the device was high, but subsequent word about the limited stock of the Z10 dampened those reports. The Z10 has since launched in a handful of other countries, including Singapore and South Africa. It won't reach U.S. store shelves until mid-March at the earliest.
Walkley isn't bullish on the Z10's U.S. ability to impact Q1 sales. First, it will reach stores too late in the quarter. Second, and worse, he believes supply will be limited as carriers stock the device cautiously. "We anticipate carriers will not build large inventory levels," Walkley told clients in a report. He's not alone.
Pacific Crest analyst James Faucette released his own research about the Z10 to investors. He believes BlackBerry will sell between 275,000 and 325,000 Z10s during the first quarter, which falls in line with Walkley's estimates. Faucette went so far as to suggest that Wall Street hasn't been hard enough on BlackBerry and its new smartphone.
"We believe the Street has gotten ahead of the potential reality for BB10 shipments," wrote Faucette. "There is no line of sight to profitability; we remain sellers of BBRY." Faucette believes BlackBerry will have to triple or quadruple its device shipments in order to sustain profitability.
"We continue to believe the Z10 launch involves relatively small shipment volumes and only moderate sell-through so far in markets which have historically been some of BlackBerry's strongest," continued Faucette. "As a result, investor optimism that the BB10 could reverse the company's trajectory appears to be well overdone at current levels, in our view."
Last, analyst Brian Bear also offered dampened thoughts on BlackBerry 10. "We are getting indications that U.S. carriers are not optimistic about Z10 sell-through, but are instead more hopeful about the keyboard-based Q10," he wrote." The Z10 will precede the Q10 by at least a month. The Q10 is more like a traditional BlackBerry in that it has a physical QWERTY keyboard in addition to the touchscreen.
Perhaps most damningly, Bear said that Apple and Google smartphones "are simply too entrenched in the U.S. market" for BlackBerry to make a comeback beyond an initial run of BlackBerry enthusiasts.
As noted last week, there's more to the story than this initial launch. BlackBerry's comeback hopes will look much clearer by the end of the second quarter, during which the Z10 and Q10 will enjoy wider availability.
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