Fairfax says BlackBerry deal will go through
BlackBerry stock drops after it cancels discussion of earnings results
The head of Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. says he has every intention of completing the acquisition of BlackBerry, despite doubts that the $4.7 billion deal for the troubled smartphone maker will go through.
BlackBerry announced earlier this week that Fairfax signed a letter of intent that "contemplates" buying BlackBerry for $9 a share. Fairfax, BlackBerry's largest shareholder, is trying to attract other investors.
His statements followed a beating the stock took Wednesday as investors began to doubt the deal would be completed. Later Wednesday, BlackBerry said it would cancel a conference call and webcast that had been scheduled for Friday after the release of its second-quarter financial results.
We thought long and hard before we offered $9 dollars a share and we're not in the business of offering a number and at the last minute changing the figure- Fairfax CEO Prem Watsa
That contributed to a further fall in the stock Thursday. It closed at $8.17 in Toronto and $7.95 on the Nasdaq exchange.
There is no breakup fee should Fairfax walk away, but Fairfax CEO Prem Watsa told The Associated Presshis firm is not in the business of making an offer and then walking away or redoing the deal.
"We've got a track record of 28 years of completing what we've done. We've never re-negotiated," Watsa said. "We thought long and hard before we offered $9 dollars a share and we're not in the business of offering a number and at the last minute changing the figure. Over 28 years our reputation is stellar on that front. We just don't do that."
Watsa noted the deal is subject to six weeks of due diligence but stressed Fairfax won't abandon it.
Watsa stepped down as a board member last month because of potential conflicts when BlackBerry announced it was considering a sale. If the proposed deal goes through, BlackBerry would go private and no longer be traded publicly.
Fairfax to bring in partners
Watsa said Fairfax won't be contributing more to the bid than the 10 per cent it already owns.
"The 10 percent is like $500 million. It's a significant amount of money," he said. "We're going to bring equity partners and we think the company will be very well capitalized."
He did not say who the partners would be.
BlackBerryhas already telegraphed its second-quarter results will include a second-quarter loss of between $950 million to $995 million. It also projected $1.6 billion in sales, far short of analysts' expectations of about $3 billion.
It said in a statement that decided to cancel the conference call "in light of the letter of intent agreement between BlackBerry and Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd."
A plan to cut about 40 per cent of its global workforce, about 4,500 jobs, is also underway.
Unclear whether executives will comment
With few surprises expected in the financial report, attention was expected to turn Friday to comments from chief executive Thorsten Heins about the quarter and where the company could be headed in the coming months.
However, it was unclear Wednesday what commentary might accompany the earnings report or whether top executives might otherwise be available for comment.
"The company will publish further details regarding its second-quarter results in the management's discussion and analysis and consolidated financial statements, to be filed next week," the announcement said.
In more bad news Thursday, a BlackBerry smartphone supplier is moving ahead with plans to end its partnership agreement, raising new questions about whether the Canadian company will soon exit the handset business.
The chief executive of Jabil Circuit Inc. told analysts in a conference call that Jabil is reconsidering how much BlackBerry will contribute to its financial results next year.
"We are in discussions right now on how we are going to wind down the relationship," CEO Mark Mondello said.
The smartphone maker is expected to revise its entire product line.
The $4.7 billion Fairfax deal
On Monday, Fairfax proposed a tentative agreement to take the company private with a consortium of unnamed financiers for $9 per share.
The letter of intent values BlackBerry at $4.7 billion but allows Fairfax to walk away from the offer if it is dissatisfied with a number of conditions.
A report in the Globe and Mail said that Fairfax was seeking more than $1 billion from other investors to help fund a takeover of BlackBerry, but that the Toronto-based investment firm still has a long way to go before it gains the support it needs.
The Globe, citing unidentified sources, said that as of Tuesday only one pension fund was seriously considering joining the Fairfax-led consortium — the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan, one of Canada's largest institutional investors.
The pension plan has declined to comment on any reports that link it to deals before they're announced.
'Take the money and run'
The Globe report says Fairfax is pitching a deal that would be financed with $3 billion of bank loans, $1 billion of equity from institutions and Fairfax's current 10 per cent stake in BlackBerry, worth about $470 million.
That tentative bid could become more attractive as BlackBerry continues to lose value on stock markets. Since the announcement, when shares of the company briefly spiked, its stock has fallen nearly 11 per cent.
Some analysts expected the Fairfax offer to drive BlackBerry's share price higher — or at least keep it steady — on the expectation that either other bidders could emerge or the Fairfax deal would move forward. So far those hopes have been dashed.
"Shareholders should be very happy," wrote National Bank analyst Kris Thompson in a recent note.
"It's still a long shot that new owners can turn the company around, so shareholders should take the money and run."
With files from The Associated Press