BlackBerry Ltd.‘s share price jumped Friday after the former smartphone company beat analyst estimates for profit and revenue in the fourth-quarter and announced an upbeat outlook for the coming year.
The company, based in Waterloo, Ont., had a full-year profit of US$95 million on revenue of US$904 million, which were both down from the prior year. But the focus was on BlackBerry’s strong fourth quarter and future expectations.
During a morning conference call, executive chairman and CEO John Chen announced the outlook for BlackBerry’s current 2020 financial year includes estimated revenue growth of between 23 per cent and 27 per cent.
He also noted that BlackBerry met all of its key financial targets for the 2019 financial year and exceeded analyst revenue and profit estimates in the fourth quarter ended Feb. 28.
“We believe total revenue growth is a significant milestone to both the company and our shareholders,” Chen said.
“This profitable growth is a clear indication that we have successfully pivoted to become an enterprise software company.”
Although other companies still make and sell BlackBerry-branded smartphones under licence, BlackBerry itself concentrates on producing and selling software, services and intellectual property licences.
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Shares of the Waterloo, Ont.-based company closed up $1.56, or 13.1 per cent, at $13.47 on the Toronto Stock Exchange Friday.
Since Chen’s arrival, BlackBerry shares have generally outperformed the broader Toronto market benchmark but underperformed Apple Inc., which became a devastating rival after the iPhone was introduced in 2008.
Part of the challenge for investors is gauging the success of Chen’s go-slow approach to delivering growth over the long-term from the sales of cybersecurity protections for internet-connected devices, including autonomous vehicles.
In a later call with reporters, Chen said he takes comfort in the fact that BlackBerry has returned to profitable revenue growth.
“When I first joined (in late 2013), the company was making US$6 billion in revenue but losing a lot of money,” Chen said.
Now, he said, BlackBerry is “making money and generating cash.”
The company, which reports in U.S. currency, said it earned $51 million or eight cents per diluted share for the quarter. That compared with a loss of $10 million or six cents per diluted share a year ago.
On an adjusted basis, it earned 11 cents per share. Revenue, using U.S. generally accepted accounting principles, totalled $255 million, up from $233 million and above analyst estimates.
Analysts on average had expected a profit of six cents per share on revenue of $241.3 million, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon.
The quarter included BlackBerry’s US$1.4-billion acquisition of Cylance, a California-based artificial intelligence and cybersecurity firm. The deal, the biggest under Chen’s leadership, closed a week before the quarter ended.
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BlackBerry’s cash level fell by $1.4 billion over the quarter as a result of the all-cash Cylance acquisition, but remained at a comfortable $1 billion.
Chen said that Cylance’s artificial-intelligence assisted technology represents a new generation of cybersecurity for end-points – devices at the outer edges of an enterprise network.
However, BlackBerry hasn’t factored revenue growth from Cylance in its revenue guidance – even though the two companies have overlapping customers – because it will be 12 months before integrated products will be ready.
“So the next fiscal year will (see) growth from that. Then, after that, we will integrate Cylance into the QNX offering.”
BlackBerry’s Ottawa-based QNX business is primarily focused on the automotive industry, as a leading supplier of software for vehicle entertainment systems and for self-driving vehicles of the future.
Chen noted that the strategy for the QNX business relies on getting “design wins” that will give it a long-lasting, steady flow of licensing revenues from the sale of products that include its embedded software.
In BlackBerry’s fourth quarter, licensing intellectual property generated $99 million in revenue, up from $58 million a year earlier, while revenue at BlackBerry Technology Solutions, which includes QNX, grew to $55 million from $46 million.
Meanwhile, revenue from software and services for enterprises, part of BlackBerry’s legacy business, fell to $92 million from $108 million a year earlier.