Is BlackBerry Ltd Now A Software Company?

Updated on

BlackBerry CEO John Chen shared his vision of the company as a software firm years ago, but at one point does one consider the transition to be over? Apparently some believe it is complete and that BlackBerry has successfully transformed from being a smartphone-focused company into one focused on software. Despite this, much of Wall Street’s focus is still on the smartphone business.

What’s there to like about BlackBerry?

Seeking Alpha contributor Anchorite argued in a post on Thursday that BlackBerry is actually in the security software business rather than the hardware business, also noting that QNX isn’t truly a security offering but rather an operating system that is designed to be secure. The crux of the author’s argument is that the stock is one to watch but not yet buy as there are both good and bad things about it right now.

For example, depending on how BlackBerry is valued, it can look a little expensive. Using the price to sales ratio, the company comes in at a multiple of six times, which makes it expensive compared to the 3.8 multiple Symantec has. After adjusting BlackBerry’s ratio by subtracting the tangible book value in order to reflect the net equity, however, the writer notes that BlackBerry becomes the cheapest of the two, especially since Symantec’s doesn’t change with this adjustment.

The writer explains that the reason is because Symantec has acquired multiple companies at big premiums to their tangible book value, which has resulted in a sizable amount of intangible assets on its balance sheet.

BlackBerry’s relatively flush with cash too

Another good thing about BlackBerry is the fact that it has a solid cash position, especially when compared to its peers in the security software business. Even after subtracting long-term debt, the company beats out Symantec, Fortinet, Imperva and FireEye.

The company also has an attractive patent portfolio, which once was a key focus of Wall Street as analysts considered whether a sale of BlackBerry’s intellectual property was needed to save it. The Canadian firm has about 38,000 patents, which is far more than the number of patents held by the peers it is compared to by the Seeking Alpha contributor. According to Anchorite, the next closes one of the four peers is Symantec with 3,000 patents.

Will BlackBerry become an acquisition target?

The writer then considered what BlackBerry might be worth if a suitor would make an offer. After comparing the various numbers, he suggests that BlackBerry is undervalued by about 50% but adds that the company wouldn’t be worth $20 per share in an acquisition. The main reason is because the company isn’t only security software as it also has the hardware business Wall Street would love to see it shut down. As a result, he explains that it’s just too hard to slap a value on BlackBerry right now.

Overall, he sees the company as having some good qualities, specifically in terms of its value as a security software and services company and its cash position. However, the writer also notes that the legacy handset business is still a weight around BlackBerry’s neck. Additionally, he thinks BlackBerry would only be a compelling acquisition target if its price drops to $6 per share.

So has BlackBerry successfully completed the transition to being a software-focused company? Chen’s seeming inability to give up on the hardware business suggests that he’s not really ready to let go of it despite his comments that they want to be a software business. The idea is probably that hardware will support the software, but Wall Street might never see BlackBerry as a software business while there are still BlackBerry phones for sale.

BlackBerry shares closed down 0.13% at $7.97 on Friday at the NASDAQ.

Leave a Comment