BlackBerry to consider its options – may put itself up for sale

12 Aug 2013

Smartphone maker BlackBerry looks like it is to call it a day. The company ceased trading shares today to announce that it has established a special committee to consider a number of alternatives for the troubled company – a sale, a joint venture or partnership.

The company said the job of the committee is to “explore strategic alternatives to enhance value and increase scale in order to accelerate BlackBerry 10 deployment.”

The committee is comprised of CEO Thorsten Heins, Barbara Stymiest, Richard Lynch, Bert Nordberg and will be chaired by Timothy Dattels.

Future Human

Prem Watsa, the CEO and chairman of Fairfax Financial, BlackBerry’s largest shareholder, has resigned because of potential conflicts of interest during the process.

“I continue to be a strong supporter of the company, the board and management as they move forward during this process, and Fairfax Financial has no current intention of selling its shares.”

In recent weeks, it became apparent that BlackBerry’s brand continues to decline and has been overtaken by sales of devices based on Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system.

The company is understood to have sold only 2.7m BB10 (BlackBerry 10) devices at a time when it was hoped new devices like the Z10 would boost its fortunes.

Who will buy BlackBerry?

A further insight into where the company’s future may lie can be seen in the deployment by Samsung of BBM, BlackBerry’s popular messaging service, on Android phones in Africa, suggesting the company may license its technology to other phone makers.

“During the past year, management and the board have been focused on launching the BlackBerry 10 platform and BES 10, establishing a strong financial position, and evaluating the best approach to delivering long-term value for customers and shareholders,” said Timothy Dattels, chairman of BlackBerry’s special committee of the board.

“Given the importance and strength of our technology, and the evolving industry and competitive landscape, we believe that now is the right time to explore strategic alternatives,” Dattels said.

BlackBerry, whose shares are down 38pc in six months, could follow Dell’s suit and go private. Another more likely option could be a trade sale to a larger technology company, such as Amazon or Samsung.

“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,” said Heins.

“As the special committee focuses on exploring alternatives, 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, and pursuing mobile computing opportunities by leveraging the secure and reliable BlackBerry Global Data Network.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years