Research In Motion’s stock price came within pennies of its 52-week low Friday after the company said as many as six per cent of users had temporarily lost email and text service for some three hours.

“I want to apologize to those BlackBerry customers in Europe and Africa who experienced an impact in their quality of service earlier this morning,” RIM CEO Thorsten Heins told the Canadian Press Friday afternoon.

The company scrambled to quickly restore service to users on three continents earlier in the day in an episode reminiscent of last year’s widespread service outages for BlackBerry users.

“Some users in Europe, Middle East & Africa are experiencing issues with their BlackBerry service,” the company said in a post to its Twitter account Friday morning.

An hour later the company tweeted again, apologizing to customers for the inconvenience and saying it was investigating the service interruption.

About three hours later, RIM said the problem had been fixed.

But the damage had been done.

Shares of the company dropped more than 7 per cent on Friday, closing at $6.25. The stock was just a penny shy of its 52-week low of $6.24 set on Sept. 6.

The hiccup comes at a particularly embarrassing moment, just as chief rival Apple celebrated the launch of the new iPhone5 with campouts and lineups of exuberant fans waiting to get their hands on the product.

"Oh, the irony of that," said William Blair & Co. telecom analyst Anil Doradla.

"This is not a piece of news that they can afford, they need or they want at this time," said Doradla, who is based in Chicago.

RIM's next-generation BlackBerry 10 smartphones won't make their debut until early next year, missing this year's holiday sales season. The new phones were supposed to launch last year.

"With every passing quarter that they delay the launch of the new product, they continue to lose market share," Doradla said.

With files from the Canadian Press