A BlackBerry comeback?

Rosemary Westwood on the latest numbers around BlackBerry

Big buzz over BlackBerry’s latest devices launched this spring came with a question: can skeptics be converted? Can BlackBerry lure back past users who’ve since migrated to Android and Apple?

It’s beginning to look like the answer is a tentative yes.

Market share estimates for BlackBerry’s new operating system show the company is beating out all Android phones combined to be the number two phone provider in Canada, behind Apple, with 28 per cent market share (it was tied with Samsung at 23 per cent as recently as February). BlackBerry now holds 14 per cent of the market in the U.K., according to figures dated Jun. 16 from the statistics site StatCounter Global.

Analysts are boosting sales and earnings projections for the company in the face of strong sales of BlackBerry’s Z10 and Q10 smartphones, which use the new BlackBerry 10 operating system.

In a note to investors Tuesday morning, RBC analyst Mark Sue upped shipment projections from 2.75 million to 3.5 million for the the first fiscal quarter (ending Jun. 1), and projected the second quarter would see 4 million phones shipped, up from an earlier estimate of 3 million.

Last week, Wells Fargo analyst Maynard Um estimated earnings would hit $0.32 per share for the 2013/14 fiscal year—after previously expecting a loss of $0.07 a share. “We think expectations have recently risen for BB10 units (we est. 3.5MM) and though we see some scope for upside potential, we are taking a conservative approach,” he told investors in a written statement.

The badly needed good news for BlackBerry comes after earlier downgrades amid reportedly lower-than-expected demand for the new phones, and even with rosy projections, analysts remain cautious.

“The picture remains blurry, particularly as competition remains fierce,” Sue noted.

But just as the good news has begun to mount, BlackBerry has also landed in the middle of the NSA scandal, with revelations that U.K. government spies broke past its security systems, according to reports in the Guardian. Documents allege foreign officials visiting the UK for the G20 summits in 2009 had their communications intercepted by the GCHQ intelligence agency, including “penetrating the security on delegates’ BlackBerrys to monitor their email messages and phone calls.”

BlackBerry clients can “rest assured” that it offers “the best available solution” to protect mobile communications, the company said in a statement to Maclean’s.

“While we cannot comment on media reports regarding alleged government surveillance of telecommunications traffic, we remain confident in the superiority of BlackBerry’s mobile security platform for customers using our integrated device and enterprise server technology,” it said.

Investors will have to wait until Jun. 28 for hard data to back up analysts’ optimism, when BlackBerry releases its first quarter earning for the fiscal year 2013/14.