As a purveyor of mobile technology tools, we here at Building Engines have been following the BlackBerry saga very closely, and like many, we were not surprised by the potential sale announcement yesterday. The former smartphone giant agreed in principal to be acquired by Fairfax Financial, a Canadian insurance company and BlackBerry’s largest shareholder, in a deal worth $4.7 billion in U.S. dollars. Essentially this means BlackBerry now moves into a “shop period” for about six weeks where it can enter into negotiations with other interested parties. Fairfax Financial’s founder, Prem Watsa, stepped down from BlackBerry’s board a month ago in a bid to avoid criticism of conflict of interest.
“We believe this transaction will open an exciting new private chapter for BlackBerry, its customers, carriers and employees,” Watsa said in a statement. “We can deliver immediate value to shareholders, while we continue the execution of a long-term strategy in a private company with a focus on delivering superior and secure enterprise solutions to BlackBerry customers around the world.”
As Forbes.com points out, “the real question concerns Watsa’s strategy for BlackBerry” with his plans to take it private — “assuming another suitor does not offer a higher bid.” The company’s shares were trading at $8.82 in New York late Monday afternoon, just under the approximate sale price of $9, which suggests shareholders are not expecting a higher offer to come in.
To make BlackBerry viable again, Fairfax would have to pour billions of dollars into the brand, Mashable.com noted. The site also reported that BlackBerry’s patents are said to be worth $2 billion to $3 billion, and the company has $2.8 billion in cash, which means “there doesn’t seem to be much value left in the BlackBerry name.”
So what does the future hold for the once-iconic brand? Only time will tell but some sources suggest the Waterloo, Canada-based company could reinvent itself as a B2B-focused services firm.
In addition, if the Fairfax deal falls through, the company could still try to sell itself off to a rival in the smartphone space. “This move could mean the end of BlackBerry hardware as we know it,” uSwitch.com added. But it would allow the company to leverage its software, which it’s already doing with BBM on iOS and Android.
“This could mean swanky new phones using secure BlackBerry servers, but without the BlackBerry brand,” uSwitch.com noted, adding that it would be “enticing to major companies, who want to put the safety of their communications ahead of other concerns, but don’t want to lumber users with yesterday’s hardware.”
With Android’s monopoly getting stronger every day, as we reported in August, the prospect of Samsung, Sony, HTC or LG trying out a new OS is promising.
All we know for sure is that BlackBerry as we know it is over.
At this point you might be asking, “What does this mean for current BlackBerry users?” That’s a very good question, and for now, there isn’t a definitive answer. We suggest the best course of action is simply to pay attention to what happens next and look carefully at your contract expiration dates! Your next device or contract decision (individual or corporate) will certainly be impacted by the news.
“At least they have one bid on the table,” said Colin Gillis, an analyst at BGC Partners, on CNBC’s Squawk on the Street, on Monday. “It would be an excellent thing for Blackberry to be able to go private, out of the public eye and to try and reshape itself.”