The Storm’s a hit, but RIM may miss

November 24, 2008, 8:52 PM UTC

Despite the hundreds of customers who queued up outside Verizon (VZ) stores early Friday to buy the Storm —  Research in Motion’s hot new smartphone — the company is likely to miss its subscriber targets for the quarter that ends Nov. 29, according to a report issued Monday by Citigroup (C) analyst Jim Suva.

The Storm, RIM’s (RIMM) answer to Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone, sold out almost immediately — and that’s the problem, according to Suva.

Further investigation, he says, showed that the stores only received 40 to 100 units each, and that disappointed customers were told they could order online but wouldn’t get their Storms until Dec. 15 — too late to count in RIM’s third quarter sales.

The Storm’s late release and its limited supply were among several factors that caused Suva to trim his estimate of new subscriptions this quarter from 2.9 million to 2.7 million. He also predicts Q3 earnings to come in at $0.85 per share on sales of $2.85 billion — well below the Street’s consensus of $0.91 EPS on sales of $2.96 billion.

Among the other clouds on RIM’s horizon, as Suva sees them:

  • Lack of Wi-Fi on the Storm and reviews that were “generally positive, but by no means spectacular.”
  • The delayed launch of the Blackberry Bold at AT&T (T) and sales that, while “solid,” seem to be primarily replacements rather than sales to new subscribers.
  • The continued unavailability of the Bold in the United Kingdom, a key European market for RIM.
  • The “tepid” response to the Kickstart clamshell phone at T-Mobile (DT), which seems to be more concerned with selling Google (GOOG) G1s than RIM BlackBerries.
  • A shift in thinking within corporations, which in today’s economic climate are starting to view the BlackBerry as a “nice to have” item rather than a “have to have.”

See also BlackBerry Storm: The reviews are in and BlackBerry Storm vs. Apple iPhone.

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