Speculation continues about who might be interested in buying BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB). Nomura analysts say they don’t believe a strategic buyer will step in and snap up the Canadian company. They suspect that if anyone does step up, it will be financial investors.

BlackBerry Ltd

Interestingly enough, Prem Watsa head of Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd (TSE:FFH) and one of the company’s biggest supporters, resigned from the board citing possible conflicts of interest. As a result, he could have a lot to do with what happens to BlackBerry in the near future.

BlackBerry bidders would have to be “optimistic”

Analysts Stuart Jeffrey and Woo Jin Ho say they if a bidder makes an offer for BlackBerry, they would have to be optimistic about the handset maker’s future and may pay more than the company’s share price. However, they don’t see bids for BlackBerry going above $12 or $13 per share.

Converting BlackBerry into a SaaS company

They suspect that “an optimist” might see an opportunity for Blackberry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB) to convert into a Software as a Service company, which would enjoy a high valuation multiple. On average, SaaS companies have multiples of 9.7 times their sales. The analysts said BlackBerry could be changed into a SaaS by keeping all of its mobile services like email, calendar and contacts and then leveraging the company’s relationships with mobile carriers and enterprises. They said the BlackBerry device unit could then be shut down.

They note that the company’s services unit has more than 80 percent gross margins and highly recurring revenue streams. They said it also has an internet enabled offering, which could qualify it as a SaaS company.

A “sanitized” BlackBerry?

The Nomura analysts say dumping the handset unit would effectually sanitize BlacKberry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB), making it attractive to many potential acquirers. They said it could provide “a highly profitable and strategic entry point into the broad provision of mobile enterprise applications and services.”

However, they think that the only way this would work is if BlackBerry services can be delivered on Android and iOS devices. They note that the new Secure Work Space system appears to make this possible, although it isn’t yet known how well the system works or if it will be competitive. The analysts said “a recent insider” might know more about Secure Work Space and feel optimistic enough to make a high bid.

What could happen if BlackBerry becomes a SaaS

The analysts estimate that if BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB) does shut down its consumer and devices operations, restructuring burdens could add up to $590 million. They estimate that if the company does make a successful transition into a SaaS, then it would be worth about $18 fair value on SaaS multiples or $14 a share on P/E/ multiples.

Of course they note that right after the transformation, the company’s growth outlook would be relatively low. They said BlackBerry would still have to stabilize before it could begin growing, which would make the company “a relatively low-quality SaaS name,” they believe.

The analysts maintained their Neutral rating and $10 target price for shares of BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB).