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SAN FRANCISCO – Shares of BlackBerry were halted Friday as news spread of some 4,500 layoffs at the troubled company.

The Associated Press and Bloomberg News, citing sources close to the company, provided the first specific layoff toll since the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday reported a 40% workforce reduction at BlackBerry.

The Canadian company has failed to recharge its business despite unveiling a new smartphone line and software in January. The tailspin has prompted company officials to explore strategic options, including a sale.

Further clouding its future, BlackBerry reported Friday it expects a net operating loss of $950 million to $995 million in its fiscal second quarter.

BlackBerry shares tumbled 24% to $8.03 a share today before trading was stopped.

A BlackBerry spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

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