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BlackBerry: For Sale (Or JV)

By Oonagh Reidy | Tuesday | 13/08/2013

Former mobile king to sell or enter JV in survival bid.

Canadian mobile giant BlackBerry (BBRY) announced a move to explore "strategic alternatives" in a last ditch bid for survival, amid a fiercely competitive smartphone market. 

These "alternatives" announced by the company overnight,  include "possible joint ventures, strategic partnerships or alliances, a sale of the Company or other possible transactions." This list of "alternatives" suggests the struggling giant is far from certain what fate holds in store for the one time smartphone pioneer. 

BlackBerry said its Board has formed a Special Committee to explore alternatives in order to ensure survival of its newly released BlackBerry 10 smartphones, "to enhance value and increase scale."  

BB released several new smartphones this year, including Q10 and Z10 both sold by long time partner Telstra, although failed to gain sufficient traction despite being sold by leading global carriers.

Image: Reuters
BlackBerry, once loved by business execs the world over for its highly secure platform and email centre, now stares oblivion in the face.  

Recent IDC figures show BlackBerry who led the smartphone revolution until iPhone appeared in 2007, and later Samsung and an army of Androids, has just under 3% share of the phone market globally - the lowest in the analysts history. 

However, IDC noted "BlackBerry has shown steady progress since the launch of its BB 10 platform, which has grown to three models, additional mobile operators, and a greater presence within its total volumes. 

However, analysts admitted it was "early days", adding "BlackBerry will need time and resources to evangelize more end users." 

It is likely BlackBerry, if sold, will go for cheap and could be valuable to another major like Apple, Nokia for its considerable patents kitty. It may also be saved by a private equity firm or Canadian Pension Plan, according to reports. 

Share price is at historic lows but rose as much as 10% yesterday, currently standing at US$10.80.  

Thorsten Heins, BlackBerry, CEO, refused to throw in the towel saying "we continue to see compelling long-term opportunities for BlackBerry 10, we have exceptional technology that customers are embracing, we have a strong balance sheet and we are pleased with the progress that has been made in our transition.  

 "We will be continuing with our strategy of reducing cost, driving efficiency and accelerating the deployment of BES 10, as well as driving adoption of BlackBerry 10 smartphones, launching the multi-platform BBM social messaging service."

The Special Committee consists of Heins, Richard Lynch, Barbara Stymiest, and Bert Nordberg, and will be chaired by Timothy Dattels.

Prem Watsa, CEO Fairfax Financial, BlackBerry largest shareholder, resigned from the company board due to potential conflicts, but said "I continue to be a strong supporter of the Company" ...and Fairfax "has no current intention of selling its shares."  

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board's CEO Mark Wiseman said he would consider an investment in Blackberry if the smartphone maker did decide to go private following recent speculation, reports CDN.

"It's safe to say that any large deal in Canada or elsewhere is something that we would make sure we took a hard look at," Wiseman said.

Canada Pension has invested in a number of technology companies in the past. It more than tripled a $300 million investment in Skype Technologies in two years before selling the stake in 2011 to Microsoft.

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