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BlackBerry strengthens board with two wireless industry veterans

TORONTO (Reuters) - BlackBerry named two wireless industry veterans to an expanded board of directors on Thursday, seeking to allay some investor concern around the level of industry experience it has on its board.

The smartphone maker has struggled in the last three years, bleeding market share to nimbler rivals with faster and snazzier devices.

Shareholders reelected its board nominees at the last annual meeting in Waterloo, Ontario in July. But some investors said they disapproved of the board's performance and the percentage of withheld votes for its long-time directors jumped sharply.

BlackBerry said its new board members are Richard Lynch, a former long-serving executive at U.S. wireless carrier Verizon Communications, and Bert Nordberg, a former chair of Sony Mobile and one-time president and CEO of Sony Ericsson.

BlackBerry, which changed its name last week from Research In Motion, is attempting to win back investors and consumers with a revamped line of smartphones powered by its new BlackBerry 10 operating system. It said the two new nominees will add "talent and industry knowledge" to its board.

BlackBerry's board will now consist of 12 members, of which 10 are independent members.

Shares of BlackBerry rose on Thursday for a fourth straight day on reports of strong sales for the new Z10 touch-screen device in its early introduction to Canada and Britain.

The company said Canadian launch-day sales were the best ever for a new BlackBerry. It said the first week of sales in Britain were nearly three times better than its last best performance there.

Wells Fargo Securities analyst Maynard Um assumed coverage of BlackBerry on Thursday and boosted his firm's rating on the company to "outperform," from "market perform."

BlackBerry shares rose 2.7 percent to $16.48 on the Nasdaq by early afternoon on Thursday.

The shares are up more than 25 percent from Friday's close of $13.03 on the Nasdaq, but are still below the 2013 high $18.32, reached soon before the Z10's January 30 launch.

BlackBerry shares fell last week on disappointment that the new devices will not hit the crucial U.S. market until next month. Despite the recent rally, the company's share price remains some 90 percent below its peak in 2008, when BlackBerry devices dominated a nascent smartphone market.

Japan's Nikkei in an unsourced report on Thursday said that BlackBerry would stop offering its smartphones in Japan, due to poor sales. BlackBerry was not immediately reachable for comment on the report.

(Reporting by Euan Rocha; Editing by Janet Guttsman and Grant McCool)

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