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BlackBerry staying in Canada despite real estate sale, CEO John Chen says

WATERLOO, Ont. - BlackBerry chief executive John Chen says there's still plenty of work ahead in his attempt to rescue the smartphone company, but that he has no intention of moving its main operations outside of the country.

"There's so many things that need to be fixed," Chen told reporters Friday at the company's headquarters in Waterloo, Ont., following the release of its latest quarterly financial results.

But he added later, "I don't have any plans to move out of Canada."

Other changes are in the works though, as Chen continues to reorganize the company with a goal of reducing costs. That plan includes the elimination of about 40 per cent of the company's workforce before the end of May.

On the frontlines, BlackBerry plans to unveil more keyboard smartphpones over the next 18 months that were created primarily for its loyal business and government customers.

On Friday, BlackBerry Ltd. (TSX:BB) posted a fourth-quarter loss of US$423 million or 80 cents per share, compared with a profit of $98 million or 19 cents per diluted share a year ago.

However, excluding several one-time items, BlackBerry says it reported an adjusted loss from continuing operations of $42 million or eight cents per share for the quarter.

The average analyst estimate compiled by Thomson Reuters had been for a loss of 55 cents per share for the quarter.

Revenue fell to $976 million for the three months ended March 1 compared with $2.68 billion a year ago. Analysts had expected about $1.1 billion for the latest quarter.

When he took the leadership role last November, Chen had to immediately get a tighter control on expenses, he said, because surveying the problems at the troubled company sequentially would've taken too long.

"You cannot ever cut yourself to glory," he said.

"That transition was one of the most difficult things in the beginning."

As part of its effort to lower costs and get some value of it what it owns, BlackBerry decided to sell a majority of its Canadian real estate holdings to various buyers. Some went to the University of Waterloo under an agreement that would also allow the company to lease back select properties, while others were sold to a buyer who hasn't been revealed yet.

Chen said he intends to keep the company's headquarters in Waterloo and maintain its QNX division in Ottawa.

The focus in the coming months will be returning the company to profitability, he said.

In the short term, he said that means growing its software and services business including its popular BBM service, and embedded software like QNX.

He also said the company needed to beef up its marketing operations in New York and Washington, two areas where BlackBerry smartphones still have a strong customer case.

The Canadian Press


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