Prem Watsa Big Bet On RIM Appears To Be Paying Off

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Prem Watsa‘s investment in RIM looks like a winner. Prem Watsa, chairman and CEO of Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited (PINK:FRFHF) (TSE:FFH), once again proved that he is indeed the “Warren Buffet of Canada.”  His bet in Research In Motion Limited (NASDAQ:RIMM) (TSE:RIM) is winning a fortune.

The Canadian firm’s Blackberry was once the most popular mobile phone in the market, particularly among professionals because of its e-mail function and reliable connectivity. In mid- 2007, Research In Motion Limited had more than 9 million subscribers and 300 carrier partners in 120 countries. Back then, the company’s market valuation was $42 billion, and it was growing rapidly. Blackberry was once a “must have gadget,” but its popularity went downhill since the introduction of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s iPhone. Apple broadened the smartphone market, and attracted many consumers to buy the product. RIM’s market share dropped even further when Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) launched Android, which became the leader in the smartphone market.

Research In Motion Limited (NASDAQ:RIMM) (TSE:RIM) failed to defend its position in the smartphone market, and the Blackberry OS became less competitive as it became outdated. The management of the company admitted that it was too late in its transition to the QNX operating system, and it was in deep trouble. The company started developing the Blackberry 10 to revive its business.

Many in the financial industry doubted the capability of Research In Motion Limited (NASDAQ:RIMM) (TSE:RIM) to improve its financial performance, and speculated that the Blackberry 10 will not be able to compete in the smartphone market because the competition is extremely strong.

Despite the negativity surrounding RIM, Watsa found value in the Canadian firm.  He bought a substantial amount of shares in the company and joined its board of directors. He believed that the company’s stock was trading below its book value; it has free cash flow, and is still growing its subscriber base. At the time, RIM lost 75 percent of its value, but Watsa is confident in the company’s ability to compete and to increase its market share.

Watsa’s Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited (PINK:FRFHF) (TSE:FFH) is one of the largest shareholders of RIM and owns 51,854,700 shares or 9.9 percent stake in the company. He purchased some of the stock when the stock was trading around $6 to $8 per share  (although bought many shares at a higher price).

Research In Motion Limited (NASDAQ:RIMM) (TSE:RIM) is currently trading more than $17 per share. Watsa’s investment in the company is already more than double its original value. The 51,854,700 shares are now worth approximately $881.5 million. The math says he is looking at more than $466.7 million gains–a huge fortune.

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