RIM In Deep Trouble As Layoffs, Sales Slowdown Loom

Research in Motion (NSDQ: RIMM) warned us in April that its first-quarter revenue and earnings would be lighter than it had originally thought, and it wasn’t kidding. First-quarter revenue was just $4.9 billion, missing analyst expectations by a wide margin although it managed to slightly exceed lowered expectations for earnings per share. But layoffs are coming to the company as it struggles to get back on its feet, and sales of just 500,000 Playbook tablets in the quarter won’t help boost confidence in its hopes for a rebound later this year.

For the three-month period ending May 28th, RIM reported net income of $695 million, down sharply from its fourth-quarter net income of $934 million and even down compared to last year’s first-quarter net income of $769 million. That translates to earnings per share of $1.33, which is slightly better than what analysts had been expecting following RIM’s warning that revenue and net income would be negatively impacted by product delays and the increasing weakness of its flagship BlackBerry smartphone against competition from Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) and companies using Google’s Android software.

As a result, RIM said it would implement a “cost optimization program” that will see an unspecified number of employees lose their jobs. That program will start falling into place during the current quarter, with the impact not expected to show up until RIM’s second quarter earnings results.

When it provided updated guidance in April, RIM said to expect BlackBerry sales to be “at the lower end” of a range it had previously provided of between 13.5 million and 14.5 million shipments during the quarter. It missed that range, with BlackBerry sales of just 13.2 million units. The company never publicly provided an expectation for sales of the Playbook, which it hoped would draw both businesses and consumers to a new operating system built around technology from its QNX subsidiary. But shipments of just 500,000 units compares poorly to the iPad: Apple sold 4.69 million iPads during its last quarter. It is a little more encouraging that Motorola’s performance with the Xoom, however, which Motorola (NYSE: MMI) said it shipped 250,000 of during its last quarter.

RIM was also roundly criticized in April for failing to update its full-year guidance to reflect what promises to be one of the roughest years in the company’s history. RIM got that out of the way Thursday, lowering its expectations for earnings per share to between $5.25 and $6.00, astoundingly lower than its April forecast of $7.50 for the full year. The outlook for the current quarter is just as bleak, with RIM forecasting a decline in both revenue and earnings per share compared to the numbers it just announced, which will be well below what analysts were expecting heading into this afternoon’s conference call.

That call will begin at 2 p.m. Pacific Time (NYSE: TWX), and it should be a doozy.