BlackBerry to explore possible sale of company
Board of directors forms special committee to launch review, shares rise
BlackBerry stock rose Monday after Canada's flagship technology company said its board has launched a formal review of its "strategic alternatives" — including the possibility of selling the smartphone company.
The company says the review could result in BlackBerry forming joint ventures, strategic partnerships or a sale of BlackBerry. It didn't specifically mention going private, an idea that has gained favour recently according to recent reports.
However, the long-anticipated formal strategic review — which will seek to get the best deal for BlackBerry shareholders — pushed up BlackBerry share prices.
BlackBerry shares were rose more than 10 per cent, or $1.08, to close at $11.13 on the Toronto Stock Exchange, which is about $8 below the high in January when the stock was boosted by optimism for its BlackBerry 10 smartphones.
The rising stock is a sign of shareholder frustration, according to equity analyst Troy Crandall, of the Montreal-based investment firm MacDougall, MacDougall and MacTier.
The BlackBerry 10 has not met expectations since its debut in January and the company has long talked about turning around its sagging fortunes.
But investors "haven't really seen much come forth from management," Crandall told CBC News. "It's about time they did something."
BlackBerry also announced Monday that Prem Watsa, the head of Canadian insurance company Fairfax Financial and one of BlackBerry's key shareholders, has resigned from the BlackBerry board due to potential conflicts.
Fairfax Financial, which owns 9.9 per cent of BlackBerry, is reported to be in talks with private equity investors to find ways to take BlackBerry private and his departure is taken as a sign of potential interest.
Others who may want to buy the company could include the Canada Pension Plan, which has previously expressed interest, and private equity firm Silver Lake Partners, which reportedly has been in talks with the company on possible collaboration.
Buyers would have been easier to find a few years ago during the company's heyday, said Crandall, when Microsoft, Oracle and other big names were thought to be interested.
"But things have changed and [those companies] are not so interested from what we can tell," he said.
Watsa joined the Blackberry board in early 2012 as part of attempts to revitalize the company, previously called Research In Motion, as its previous long-time co-CEOs stepped aside and installed Thorsten Heins as chief executive.
"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," Watsa said in a statement issued by BlackBerry.
The announcement comes amid unconfirmed reports that the Waterloo, Ont.-based company may go private — a move that could result in one or more investors buying out other shareholders and delisting the stock.
Heins said there are "compelling long-term opportunities" for the company's products including a new generation of BlackBerry smartphones, the BlackBerry Enterprise Server and a new secure global data network.
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"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," Heins said in a statement.
The strategic review will be headed by Timothy Dattels, who joined BlackBerry's board last year and is a senior partner at TPG Capital, one of the world's largest private equity firms. Among the company's advisors is JP Morgan Securities.
"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," Dattel said.
"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."
With files from The Canadian Press