Phone maker BlackBerry axed 50 staff here to cut costs

-- PHOTO: BLOOMBERG
-- PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

About 50 staff in Singapore were let go in BlackBerry's latest attempt to cut costs.

Sources told The Straits Times that the latest round of cuts was made last month, and involved mostly sales and marketing staff. The firm is now left with about 200 employees - mostly in technical support positions - in Singapore.

When contacted, a BlackBerry spokesman confirmed there were job losses but would not provide details. "This is, of course, disappointing news for our employees, but it is imperative that we make the necessary changes to drive the company towards profitability," she said.

The sale of BlackBerry, to a private equity consortium led by Toronto-based financial services holding firm Fairfax Financial, was announced on Monday.

This came three days after BlackBerry said it would abandon its consumer business with the loss of 4,500 jobs globally, or 40 per cent of its total workforce.

BlackBerry is shifting its focus back to business customers, among whom it once dominated prior to the Apple iPhone's debut in 2007.

But the move may be too late for some loyalists, who have felt betrayed by the company's new products that do not support an e-mail service - dubbed Black-Berry Internet Service (BIS) - which is hosted by local telcos.

Lawyer Anil Lalwani, 39, who has been using BIS for seven years, said: "The loyalty is lost. I will not go back to a BlackBerry e-mail service."

BIS allows business users to push e-mail messages directly to their devices without having to install expensive software and hardware.

For the service, users simply need to pay a flat monthly fee to any of the three telcos - SingTel, StarHub and M1 - which have the tools to hook up with BlackBerry's servers.

There were some 50,000 BIS users in Singapore earlier this year.

itham@sph.com.sg