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BlackBerry's tough pitch to find a buyer

Christopher Williams, Katherine Rushton (via SMH) | Aug. 13, 2013
Once the smartphone pioneer rivals all copied, BlackBerry is now apparently a business none of them want.

Macquarie analysts believe BlackBerry's portfolio is worth around $US1.6n. Aside from its $US2.8b cash, the company's other valuable asset is its corporate email software, BlackBerry Enterprise Server. It is popular with cautious IT departments which do not upgrade once a year like smartphone consumers and are more concerned about security than the latest apps. What's more, BlackBerry has recently adapted the software so it can manage secure email to iPhones and Android devices, so it could be spun off and sold to a big corporate technology vendor such as IBM or Cisco.

"The fact is BlackBerry has been up for sale as a whole for at least a year," said Mr Gleeson. "What this announcement today says is that they haven't found anyone interested and they're going to have to break it up."

Buyers eyeing Blackberry would also have to get past Canadian politicians and regulators, who would wince at the prospect of selling a corporate crown jewel to a foreign competitor. The growing Chinese brands Huawei and ZTE would be ruled out by BlackBerry's government clients.

Most of its prospective suitors are American. Amazon and Microsoft have considered buying the business outright, while IBM looked at cherry-picking. Dell also considered forging a strategic alliance in enterprise software.

Nokia, the Finnish mobile maker, would have a hard time convincing shareholders it should acquire Blackberry when it is facing a very similar set of problems of its own.

As the winners and losers in the smartphone boom become clear, it is now a buyers' market. "There are better options out there," said one leading technology analyst. "If you were, say, IBM, and you wanted to get into the smartphone business, HTC is probably a better target for you." "It has a bigger devices business. The products are made in Taiwan and it is probably about the same price as BlackBerry right now."

It means that the most likely home for BlackBerry as a smartphone brand is in the hands of private equity. A well-timed, anonymously sourced report last week said the board was increasingly open to such a cut-price deal, having failed to attract a buyer among the company's peers.

Once the smartphone pioneer they all copied, BlackBerry is now apparently a business none of them want.

 

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