BlackBerry chief executive Thorsten Heins says turnaround will take time

WATERLOO, Ont. – BlackBerry chief executive Thorsten Heins is encouraging shareholders to remain patient as the smartphone maker pushes ahead with a plan to become profitable again.

Heins told the company’s annual meeting on Tuesday that it’s going to take time, and just how long is unpredictable due to the volatile smartphone industry.

“We are still in the midst of a major transformation of this company,” he said.

The three-stage plan includes pushing ahead with new products yet to be unveiled, opening the BlackBerry Messenger service to other phones and focusing on corporate customers.

From there, Heins says the company plans to return to profitability in the third stage of its plan.

He acknowledged that investors have made it clear they want better results and faster progress from the company.

“This is a long-term transition for the company but I can assure you we are pushing very, very hard to show these improvements,” he added.

Heins made the comments as shareholders voted to officially change the company’s name to BlackBerry (TSX:BB) from Research In Motion. The company has been using the new name since launching its new BlackBerry 10 smartphones in January.

BlackBerry shares were hammered last month after the company reported financial results that fell short of expectations.

The company reported a loss for its most recent quarter, when most analysts had expected it to turn a profit, and Heins warned that further losses could be expected in the next quarter.

It also abandoned an operating system update to its PlayBook tablet that would have made it work seamlessly with the new phones.

Earlier this year, Heins gave assurances that an update to the PlayBook was on its way, though at the company’s recent conference in Orlando, Fla., he pulled back on those guarantees before completely ruling them out.

BlackBerry launched its Z10 phones, equipped with its new BlackBerry 10 operating system in January. The Q10 version with a keyboard was launched later in Canada, the U.K. and other markets.

During its most recent quarter, BlackBerry chief financial officer Brian Bidulka estimated the new devices accounted for about 40 per cent of the 6.8 million smartphones shipped in the company’s latest quarter, a total that would represent about 2.72 million devices.

The shipment figures, which offer an idea of how well the phones might be selling, suggested that while BlackBerry has focused much of its efforts on the launch of its new phones, the majority of sales still came from older models, particularly in emerging markets.

BlackBerry shares were up 19 cents at $10.29 in trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Tuesday.