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RIM shares fall as Blackberry shake-up unsettles investors





RESEARCH in Motion shares dropped sharply after Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis stepped down as co-chief executives of the Blackberry maker to be replaced by a little-known German executive, triggering takeover rumours.

Shares in Canadian smartphone company dropped 7pc to C$16.05 in early trading on Monday as the resignations and the appointment of Thorsten Heins as the new chief executive did little to reassure investors.

Mr Heins, a former Siemens executive who joined RIM in 2007 and was previously chief operating officer, said he would focus on a consumer push and a smooth delivery of its products.

"We innovated while we were developing the product and that needs to stop," Mr Heins said. "We need to innovate, don't get me wrong, but ... when we say a product is defined and a product is a product, execution has to be really, really precise."

He said: "I don't think that there is some drastic change needed. We are evolving .... But this is not a seismic change."

Some main shareholders, who want a drastic improvement at a company that has lost market share and market value to Apple and Google, were unimpressed.

"If Thorsten really believes that there are no changes to be made, he will be gone within 15 to 18 months. He will be a transitional chief executive and this will be a transitional board," said Jaguar chief executive Vic Alboini, who leads an informal group of 16 RIM shareholders holding just under 10pc of the company's shares.

Having made BlackBerry the indispensable device for business executives, lawyers and bankers who wanted to check their emails when not at their computers, the last five years has seen the Canadian company fail to fight back against competition from Apple and Google.

That left Mr Balsillie and Mr Lazaridis under increasing pressure from investors dismayed at RIM's tumbling share price. The shares fell 75pc last year.

Their departure from the top jobs at RIM will take place with immediate effect and comes just a week before the company's own deadline for releasing the findings of a management review.

Mr Lazaridis, who founded RIM in 1984, will become vice chairman, while Mr Basillie will remain a board member.

Despite public criticism from investors, the pair insisted their decision was not due to shareholder pressure.

The challenges facing Mr Heins are considerable. RIM's share of the smartphone market in the US dwindled to just 16.6pc in the three months to the end of November, according to research firm ComScore.

That compares to just under 50pc for phones using Google's Android operating system and 28.7pc for Apple.

RIM, which has lost just over $70bn of value since its market capitalisation peaked in 2008, is working on a new operating system for its phones, though that has suffered delays. Its PlayBook, a tablet computer device aimed at challenging Apple's iPad, has failed to wow customers.