Muted debut for BlackBerry Z10 in US

Updated 23 March 2013

Muted debut for BlackBerry Z10 in US

Shares of BlackBerry fell nearly 8 percent after reports of a flat response to the launch of its new Z10 smartphone in the vitally important US market.
The well-reviewed device, whose success is essential if BlackBerry is to reestablish itself as a power in the smartphone industry, have finally hit US store shelves, nearly two months after being formally unveiled.
Several analysts and media reports found the debut lackluster.
“This morning we visited and called stores to survey early demand for the Blackberry Z10,” said Hudson Square Research analyst Daniel Ernst. “We found no lines, no signage announcing the launch, and clerks told us they had very few pre-orders.”
The uninspiring turnout hurt BlackBerry shares, which ended the day down 7.7 percent at $14.91 on the Nasdaq. The Canadian company’s Toronto-listed shares fell 8 percent to close at C$15.19.
Many analysts argue that the Z10’s performance in the hyper-competitive US market could well decide whether BlackBerry can turnaround its faded fortunes.
BlackBerry, which is already selling the new touch-screen smartphone in about 25 countries, aims to make the Z10’s new operating system the clear No. 3 platform in the market, a realistic but still difficult challenge, analysts say.
“I think the US will be a challenge for BlackBerry more so than some of the countries where they have already launched,” said Morningstar analyst Brian Colello.
“The momentum for iPhone and Android is too strong here. I still think they can win over some enterprise users, but the US is a country where BlackBerry’s brand has been greatly diminished.”
BlackBerry once ruled the US smartphone market, but it has fallen badly in recent years as devices powered by Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems dominate sales both in North America and overseas.
BlackBerry’s new BB10 operating system will now slug it out with Microsoft’s Windows 8 platform to secure the No. 3 spot in the market.
By most accounts BlackBerry has a tough fight ahead. It not only has to win back the hearts and minds of consumers, but the timing is hardly ideal, with the Samsung Galaxy S4, expected to go on sale by the end of April, generating a lot of buzz.
“We believe BlackBerry’s launch in the strategically important US market will run into intense competition,” said Raymond James analyst Steven Li in a note to clients on Friday.
Despite the buzz around other devices, some still expect the Z10 to do well in the United States.
Best Buy’s head of mobile sales, Scott Anderson, said the retailer has been able to gauge demand for the Z10 based on sales at Best Buy stores in Canada.
“We have fairly consistently increased the allocation of it to our stores as it has got more and more buzz. Even though we aren’t releasing any numbers, we do put this in the realm of a serious iconic launch,” he said, adding that BlackBerry has a window of opportunity over the next month before the new HTC and Samsung smartphones hit store shelves in the US.
The company was forced to delay the Z10’s launch in the US market because testing by telecommunications carriers there took longer than expected.
“We’ve been working very intensely for the last two months with the carriers and partners to ensure the retail experience will be great for customers,” BlackBerry Chief Marketing Officer Frank Boulben said in an interview with Reuters.
The launch, though, appeared to be low-key at AT&T stores in New York, where there was no sign of posters or other marketing to highlight the launch day. An AT&T sales associate at one of its stores said the store had sold several of the devices early in the day.
The device went on sale at AT&T Inc. stores across the country early on Friday, while Verizon Inc. is set to begin selling the device in its stores on March 28.
Carriers in the United States allowed customers to pre-order or pre-register for the devices earlier this month.
“Relative to the population, we are on the same trajectory as we were in Canada with respect to pre-registration, and as you know we’ve had a very solid performance in Canada during the first six weeks,” Boulben said.
BlackBerry has yet to release hard numbers on initial sales of the Z10 in major markets such as Britain and Canada, where it went on sales soon after the introduction.
The company is expected to provide a first reading on the Z10’s popularity when it releases its quarterly results on March 28. BlackBerry’s shares surged last week, however, after it said one of its partners had placed an order for 1 million BlackBerry 10 smartphones, the largest single purchase order in the company’s history.
The BlackBerry Q10 model, which has a traditional physical keyboard that’s likely to appeal to professionals who are heavy e-mail users, is expected to go on sale next month. It won’t reach US store shelves until May or June. The company also plans to launch lower-end versions of the devices this year.
“I really expect a great start from the Z10 in the United States and that will be amplified by the Q10,” Boulben said.

Oil slumps more than 4% on coronavirus fears

Updated 28 February 2020

Oil slumps more than 4% on coronavirus fears

  • Traders fret about impact of spreading virus on crude demand, particularly from China

LONDON: World oil prices tumbled by more than 4 percent on Thursday, as traders fretted about the impact of spreading coronavirus on crude demand, particularly from key consumer China.

Brent oil for April delivery tanked almost 4.2 percent to $51.20 per barrel, while New York’s WTI crude for the same month dived nearly 5 percent to $46.31.

“Concerns that the virus will prompt a global slowdown, weaker consumer confidence and reduced travel has raised concerns about lower demand, weighing on prices,” said CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson.

Investors are growing increasingly fearful about the economic impact of the new coronavirus or COVID-19 outbreak. 

The virus continues to spread meanwhile, with Brazil reporting Latin America’s first case, and Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Georgia, Norway and Pakistan following suit.

Around 2,800 people have died in China and more than 80,000 have been infected. There have been more than 50 deaths and 3,600 cases in dozens of other countries, raising fears of a pandemic.

The spread of the virus to large economies including South Korea, Japan and Italy has raised concerns that growth in fuel demand will be limited. 

Consultants Facts Global Energy forecast oil demand would grow by 60,000 barrels per day in 2020, a level it called “practically zero,” due to the outbreak.

US President Donald Trump sought to assure Americans on Wednesday evening that the risk from coronavirus remained “very low,” but global equities resumed their plunge, wiping out more than $3 trillion in value this week alone.

“The negative price impact would intensify if the coronavirus were declared pandemic by the World Health Organization, something that looks imminent,” said PVM Oil Associates analyst Tamas Varga.

“The mood is gloomy and the end of the tunnel is not in sight – there is no light ahead just darkness. Not even a refreshingly positive weekly US oil report was able to lend price support.”

Gasoline stockpiles dropped by 2.7 million barrels in the week to Feb. 21 to 256.4 million, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Wednesday, amid a decline in refinery throughput. Distillate inventories fell by 2.1 million barrels to 138.5 million.

US crude oil stockpiles increased by 452,000 barrels to 443.3 million barrels, the EIA said, which was less than the 2-million-barrel rise analysts had expected.

The crude market is watching for possible deeper output cuts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies including Russia, a group known as OPEC+.

“Oil is in freefall as the magnitude of global quarantine efforts will provide severe demand destruction for the next couple of quarters,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA. 

“Expectations are growing for OPEC+ to deliver deeper production cuts next week.”

OPEC+ plans to meet in Vienna on March 5-6.