Monday, January 03, 2011

What's Wrong With RIM Analysts?

By Eric Jackson12/29/10 - 08:00 AM EST

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Sell-side analysts on Wall Street still have a terrible reputation.

You would think that after Jack Grubman's stock-touting at Citigroup(C_) 10 years ago and all the efforts to erect "Chinese walls" between research and investment banking, that things would be better today. But, deep down, we all know they're not.

Here's one example that made me scratch my head at what's going on in the minds of Wall Street analysts.

I am short Research In Motion(RIMM_). Therefore, I listen to the company's earnings calls because I find the Q&A section of those calls the only time I can hear the unfiltered views of the co-CEO, Jim Balsillie.

Most of the time in public, Balsillie reads from prepared remarks. The Q&A is the only time I hear him think on his feet and articulate his company's strategy. (You know my position, so you know what I think of his performance at these moments.)

RIM is a fairly big company with more than 50 analysts covering it, according to Yahoo! Finance. Yet I've noticed that RIM always limits the length of its earnings calls to one hour. The call start at 5 p.m., and RIM reminds everyone that the call will end at 6 p.m. Sometimes this leaves 40 minutes for Q&A and sometimes this leaves only 15 minutes -- it all depends on how long prepared remarks are.

What has surprised me about the Q&A session is that, despite the 50-plus analysts covering the company, the same people keep getting called upon to ask questions during this short window.

My first thought was that the fix must be in. I assumed Balsillie was going back to his buddies to give them access. These buddies -- I assumed -- had large price targets on the stock. I assumed the more critical analysts weren't getting called upon.


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