Money-saving measures help BlackBerry post surprise quarterly profit

While self-congratulatory back-slapping among BlackBerry executives may still be some way off, the fact that the mobile maker on Thursday posted a profit for the first time in five quarters means a light may have finally appeared at the end of the tunnel, albeit one the size of a pin prick.

Sure, the profit for the three-month period ending May 31 was paltry at just $23 million, but CEO John Chen will draw some comfort from the fact that it’s an improvement on the previous quarter, which saw losses of $423 million, as well as on the same period 12 months earlier when losses reached $84 million.

“I’m very pleased to report that we continued to make significant progress on our plan to return BlackBerry to growth and profitability,” Chen said during an earnings call on Thursday, adding that the struggling mobile company was approaching the end of some severe cost-cutting efforts that have included laying off workers, cutting ties with partners, and selling off property belonging to the firm.

The company said sales of its budget Z3 phone, which launched in Indonesia last month, have so far been stronger than expected, with another handset, called Passport, being prepped for a September launch. However, handset sales through to end customers for its most recent quarter reached just 2.6 million units, down from 3.4 million in the preceding period.

In addition, BlackBerry’s revenue showed a significant year-on-year decline for the quarter, down to $966 million from $3.1 billion, though this was similar to revenue for the preceding period, which came in at $976 million.

Extreme measures

The Waterloo, Ontario company was forced into taking extreme measures after its share of the mobile market melted away in the face of growing competition from increasingly powerful Android handsets and Apple’s iPhone.

Thorsten Heins took over at the top in 2012 after founders Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie stepped down, though his tenure at the top, which oversaw the launch of its all-new BB10 operating system and phones, ended in failure.

Chen was brought in last November in a last ditch effort to get things back on track, with the former Sybase boss opting for severe cost-cutting measures while focusing more on the enterprise market, as well as on new handset launches and its BBM cross-platform messaging service.