RIM Settles with Ontario Regulators
By Monica Alleven
The Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) approved an agreement with Research In Motion (RIM) that requires top executives to pay millions as part of a stock-option backdating settlement.
Co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, along with other executives, agreed to pay about $62 million (U.S.), including about $7 million to the OSC as an administrative penalty. Most of the settlement money goes back into RIM.
As part of the settlement, Balsillie cannot sit on the board for at least 12 months, but he keeps his position as co-CEO.
The Ontario regulator said the executives were negligent but didn’t commit fraud, according to the Associated Press. The allegations date back 10 years around a stock option backdating practice that was common among tech companies.
RIM also announced that it has made an offer of settlement to the U.S. SEC to resolve the SEC’s separate investigation of RIM’s practices. The staff of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement has agreed to recommend that the commissioners approve proposed settlements, the company said.
RIM’s shares today were up more than 5 percent, trading at $59.95 at mid-day Eastern time.
Separately, a UBS Investment Research report concluded that RIM saw positive momentum in sales for December and January. A survey of about 50 stores suggests that return rates for the Storm at Verizon Wireless were initially higher but leveled off since the first software patch and Verizon increased product training and customer support, wrote analyst Maynard Um in a report. For those customers returning the Storm, the Curve was the most recommended alternative, especially for e-mail/SMS users.
UBS raised its estimates for RIM’s fourth-quarter pro forma earnings per share to 89 cents, up from 83 cents.
Patent Face-Off: Palm Pre, Apple
By Maisie Ramsay
The upcoming release of iPhone challenger the Palm Pre has the industry buzzing about a potential patent war between the two companies.
In what could amount to a legal headache for Palm and a bounty of fees for patent attorneys, Apple’s arsenal of granted and applied-for patents has armored it on multiple fronts.
“Apples’s move to patent key aspects of multi-touch technology poses a nearly-insurmountable barrier to entry,” says analyst Pablo Perez-Fernandez with Global Crown Capital Equity Research.
“If you spend the time to go through the patents that have been granted to Apple and FingerWorks, you actually look at the claims in the patents, they are very, very broad. They’re not only gestures and user interfaces but hardware,” Perez-Fernandez says.
Both Apple and Palm have filed a slew of patents for the technology in their respective devices, with Apple even attempting to trademark the term “multi-touch”. Apple’s application to trademark the rights for the term “multi-touch” is expected to go through in the first or second quarter.
Neither Palm nor Apple could be reached for comment by press time, but Apple’s pending trademark application goes to the core of its ability to sell: marketing, branding and positioning.
“This is a key issue that’s much more important than people realize. If Apple gets this patent, nobody will be able to use the term … It affects every other handset vendor – Palm, HTC, RIM,” says Perez-Fernanadez. Palm has used the term in its marketing of the Pre, but that could come to a halt if Apple’s trademark application comes through, he says.
“Multi-touch” actually already has been patented by DPI Labs for use with its switches, switch panels and communication circuits. However, because the companies’ association of the term is completely different, Apple’s trademark application is unlikely to be rejected on the grounds that it infringes on DPI’s rights.
Still, don’t expect lawsuits just yet: Apple can’t sue until the Palm Pre is released.
Certicom Receives Second Purchase Offer
By The Associated Press
MISSISSAUGA, Ontario (AP) — Certicom says BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion (RIM) is leading the bidding war for its encryption technology company.
Certicom said Thursday that RIM’s takeover bid of $3 Canadian dollars per share is superior to California-based VeriSign Inc.’s bid of CA$2.10 per share.
Certicom had struck a deal with VeriSign that values the company at CA$92 million ($74 million).
RIM’s $128.1 million ($104.3 million) offer is the second time the telecom giant has bid on Certicom. An Ontario judge ordered RIM to withdraw its initial offer on the grounds that it obtained privileged information through its previous business relationship.
VeriSign has five days to present a counteroffer.
TDC Mobile to Roll Out Femtocell Platform in Denmark
By Andrew Berg
Denmark’s TDC Mobile says that it is planning to roll out an NEC-supplied femtocell platform in late 2009. The scope of engagement includes a friendly user trial involving several Femtocell Access Points deployed in consumer locations and connected to TDC’s commercial core network system.
In the United States, Sprint offers its Sprint Airwave femtocell service, which costs $15 per month for a single user or $30 per month for multiple users. Verizon Wireless offers a femtocell with a one-time price of $250.
U.S. carriers are still struggling with issues of standardization. They’re also gauging whether consumers will be willing to pay extra for basic coverage that their plans are supposed to provide in the first place.
TDC’s femtocell rollout will offer customers a small low-power plug-and-play consumer device (the Femtocell Access Point) that will enable the provision of localized 3G coverage and dedicated capacity in their home while using their broadband connection as a backhaul.
Flemming Hynkemejer, CTO of TDC Mobile said: “We look forward to evaluating the results of the femtocell trial. Femtocell technology promises to provide our customers with a number of advantages, primarily improved 3G coverage and capacity indoors. This will give them an even better experience and access to more services.”
Verizon CFO to Retire
By The Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Doreen A. Toben will retire as CFO of Verizon Communications around the middle of this year, the country’s second-largest telecommunications provider said Thursday.
Verizon added that a successor will be named shortly.
Toben, 59, has served as the company’s CFO since 2002 and began her career at AT&T in treasury in 1983.
Verizon’s shares rose 58 cents to close earlier at $31.19.
The company last month reported fiscal 2008 profit of $6.43 billion, or $2.26 per share, up from $5.52 billion, or $1.90 per share, in the previous year. Revenue in 2008 rose 4.2 percent to $97.4 billion from a year earlier as the shrinking economy did little to dampen consumer appetites for wireless, Internet and TV service.
FirstNews Briefs for Feb. 6, 2009
Companies in the news: Quattro Wireless, Broadcom, Nickelodeon, Apple, Hard Dollar, Skyworks Solutions, Nokia Siemens Networks, Huawei, ZTE, Turkcell
Quattro Wireless announced a strategic global expansion of its mobile ad network to Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Asia. Quattro will now accept internationally-focused and country-specific publishers and advertisers into its network.
• Broadcom announced that the software that controls its Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/FM combination solution is a standard component of the latest Android operating system. This is the first time that the Android platform includes native support for a multi-functional wireless connectivity solution (or “combo” chip), the company said.
• Nickelodeon is launching its first-ever series of Apple iPhone and iTouch applications in the Apple iTunes App Store, featuring content based on SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer and iCarly. Nick also will launch extensions of its online gaming sites – Shockwave.com and AddictingGames.com – on the iPhone, including streaming mobile video applications and games.
• Hard Dollar announced the release of its Field Data Collection software for use on Microsoft CE platform devices, smartphones and other wireless handheld devices. The mobile wireless software enables field-based employees for contractors to collect time sheet information, expenses, equipment usage, project notes, material usage and productivity data and instantly update the corporate Project Cost Management.
• Skyworks Solutions’ first fiscal quarter revenue was $210.2 million compared with $210.5 million in the year-ago period. The company said it gained traction in the quarter at Nokia Siemens Networks, Huawei and ZTE with 3G base station solutions.
• Turkcell grew its subscriber base by 5 percent, to 37 million in Turkey as of Dec. 31. At the end of the fourth quarter of 2008, its postpaid subscriber count reached 7.5 million and prepaid was at 29.5 million.