(Updates with RIM subscriber number in eighth paragraph.)
Nov. 11 (Bloomberg) -- Research In Motion Ltd., struggling to stem sales declines amid competition from Apple Inc., gained the support of hedge-fund manager Leon Cooperman, who said the BlackBerry maker’s new operating system will help it rebound.
“People think it’s a melting ice cube,” Cooperman, whose Omega Advisors Inc. hedge fund purchased a stake in RIM last quarter, said today in an interview. “We think the new operating system is going to surprise people” and that RIM is going to meet its projections.
RIM has lost 68 percent this year, slumping below the net value of its assets because of market-share losses to Apple’s iPhone and devices that run Google Inc.’s Android software. The decline has put pressure on RIM to shake up management, and investors such as Jaguar Financial Corp. have called for the company to split up, seek a merger or sell itself.
The company, which helped create the smartphone market a decade ago with its first e-mail device, would be worth more than its current market capitalization if it combines with another company, Cooperman said.
“Why do people buy a stock? They buy a stock because they think it is undervalued,” he said. “The merger value is worth more than the market value.”
Omega, based in New York, bought 1.43 million RIM shares last quarter, as it increased the proportion of its equity investments in technology stocks by 6.3 percent, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
Investors Dropping Out
RIM rose 5.2 percent to $18.49 at the close in New York.
Cooperman said that James Balsillie and Michael Lazaridis, who together serve as co-chairmen and co-chief executive officers, together hold about $1 billion of RIM stock, providing them with incentive to make it succeed. Another point in RIM’s favor is the company’s installed base of more than 70 million subscribers, he said.
The company, based in Waterloo, Ontario, posted its first quarterly revenue decline in nine years in September and is struggling to move its BlackBerry lineup onto the new operating system. The software is part of a bid to win users from the iPhone, which runs Apple’s iOS software, and devices from Samsung Electronics Co. and HTC Corp. that run Android.
RIM’s U.S. market share sank to 9.2 percent in the third quarter from 24 percent a year earlier as consumers opted for the iPhone and Android devices, according to researcher Canalys.
Major investors who have sold all their shares in recent months include Brookside Capital Investors Inc., Greystone Managed Investments Inc., Janus Capital Management LLC and Montrusco Bolton Investments Inc., according to Bloomberg data.
RIM is scheduled to report fiscal third-quarter earnings on Dec. 15.
--With assistance from Hugo Miller in Toronto. Editors: Ville Heiskanen, Donna Alvarado
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