It’s a tough lot for BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB) today.
Bulldozed by the smartphone market it created, BlackBerry is in a free-fall into oblivion. The descent began in 2007, instigated by the emergence of consumer-friendly products from Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG). It’s been precipitated by a lethargic BlackBerry 10 release and a public beating of the BlackBerry Storm.
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The Canadian smartphone company’s timeline is riddled with entrepreneurial bungles and a corporate strategy unequipped to adjust to a consumer-based entertainment market for smartphones.
But as pundits draft BlackBerry’s obituary, does the fading company stand a chance to reverse its plight? Its dismantling became its starkest reality shortly after a report of losses approaching $1 billion in the second quarter, and the subsequent layoff of 4,500 from its workforce.
Much as the dawn of MP3s rendered CDs obsolete, and the way fiber-optic Internet provokes action among Internet service providers to step it up or be stepped on, BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB) must examine what it can do in a market that saw new players swipe its recipe and improve upon it.
With a handful of companies at least window shopping at BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB)’s end-of-season sale, hope remains that someone could swoop in and help BlackBerry on a path back to relevance – or at least pick up the pieces of the smartphone pioneer to enhance their existing platform.
BlackBerry’s best bets
1. Fairfax takes BlackBerry’s reigns
The rub: Fairfax Financial Holdings, BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB)’s biggest investor, stepped forward first with an offer of $4.7 million for the entire company.
Fairfax’s offer stands until Nov. 4. Until then, BlackBerry can entertain offers. Meanwhile, the mainstays among BlackBerry’s loyalists, federal government entities, have increasingly turned to Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) products, which run a Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android OS, as security concerns tapered off over the years.
The snag: According to the price per share of the Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd (OTCMKTS:FRFHF) (TSE:FFH) deal, BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB)’s net worth is less than Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s first-day haul on its latest iPhone.
While Apple and Google appeal to consumers’ desire to use a smartphone as a tool of entertainment utility, BlackBerry’s slant remains toward corporate IT. When it did pitch itself as a personal and professional data device, its Z10 release whimpered far more than roared.
The outlook: Unless another suitor dives in, a Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd (OTCMKTS:FRFHF) (TSE:FFH) takeover is BlackBerry’s reality.
Many smartphone consumers are Apple/Google loyalists. They’ve never owned a BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB) product. Under Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd (OTCMKTS:FRFHF) (TSE:FFH), BlackBerry needs to regain the government handset favor, which is no easy feat in an age of sequester and uncertainty. BlackBerry’s best tactic: Emphasize its network security.
2. Lenovo breaks BlackBerry into pieces
The rub: Lenovo, a Chinese multinational technology firm, wants to browse BlackBerry’s books.
They, along with distressed assets specialist Cerberus Capital Management, signed non-disclosure agreements with BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB). Lenovo Group Limited (ADR) (OTCMKTS:LNVGY) (HKG:0992), the world’s No. 8 handset manufacturer in Q2, seeks an acquisition consistent with its growth strategy, its CEO told The Wall Street Journal.
The snag: CEO Yang Yuanquing’s company faces roadblocks in western governments.
The Investment Canada Act allows its government to nix a foreign takeover of a Canadian asset or company if it cites national security concern. The U.S. would like to see BlackBerry’s secure server network remain in North America on the same premise of national security.
The outlook: A BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB) sold for parts isn’t likely to see any key components land in China.
Mashable.com’s report that Lenovo doesn’t want all of BlackBerry would decrease the likelihood of a deal. If investors are any indication, Lenovo Group Limited (ADR) (OTCMKTS:LNVGY) (HKG:0992)’s interest isn’t popular. Lenovo’s market capitalization plummeted almost $270 million as word of its interest in BlackBerry circulated.
There’s a less publicized attempt to take BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB) private. Co-founder Mike Lazaridis and shareholder Prem Watsa spearhead this effort, which likely would raise hope and expectation only temporarily before reality sets back in: The company, even free of public investor pressure, is still wallowing.
A disassembling of BlackBerry’s components is likely.
Like Nortel Networks and Nokia Corporation (NYSE:NOK) (BIT:NOK1V) (HEL:NOK1V) before it, BlackBerry finds itself in a market in which it cannot regain traction. The best hope for BlackBerry today is that the innovation that sprung the smartphone market isn’t lost, but can bolster efforts of companies better aligned to grow with it.