Layoffs coming to BlackBerry could reach 40 per cent

But analyst says layoffs might be 40 per cent only in Canada, with many jobs moved to the U.S.

BlackBerry said Wednesday it will continue to take steps to optimize its business, following a report that up to 40 per cent of its 12,700 employees will lose their jobs by year's end.

The layoffs would affect all departments, according to the report in the Wall Street Journal that relied on unnamed sources.

BlackBerry wouldn't comment on how many jobs might go, and issued this statement: "We will not comment on rumors and speculation. As previously stated, we are in the second phase of our transformation plan. Organizational moves will continue to occur to ensure we have the right people in the right roles to drive new opportunities in mobile computing."

Analyst Jack Gold of J. Gold Associates said he didn't believe the layoff report was completely accurate, based on his conversation with a BlackBerry executive on Monday. The 40% layoff might only apply to Canadian workers as the mobile phone maker moves more of its operations to the U.S. to be closer to markets, Gold said. BlackBerry is headquartered in Waterloo, Ontario.

"The executive said they are indeed laying off folks in Canada. The proposed 40 per cent layoff may be true in Canada... but I don't think it accurately reflects what's happening overall," Gold told Computerworld.

The layoff report came on the same day that BlackBerry unveiled its Z30 smartphone with a 5-in. display, a larger phone than its Z10 introduced earlier in the year.

In recent days, unnamed sources also disclosed that BlackBerry could be sold off in parts to private parties, minus its smartphone business.

The layoff and sell-off reports depict a Canadian company on the brink of extinction, at least as a publicly traded company. Once a dominant player in the smartphone space, IDC recently indicated BlackBerry's total share of smartphones will shrink below 3% in all of 2013. About 5,000 BlackBerry workers lost their jobs in 2012, part of a cost-cutting effort by CEO Thorsten Heins.

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Matt Hamblen

Computerworld (US)
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