Watsa Doubles Down On BlackBerry, Will Focus On BBRY Security Features


BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB) has finally found a buyer—long-time company bull and board member Prem Watsa has offered $9 per share, valuing the company at $4.7 billion. His company Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd (TSE:FFH) (OTCMKTS:FRFHF) already owns a 10 percent stake, and when Watsa stepped down from the board in August there was speculation that he would make an offer, but he has a lot of work cut out for him if he’s going to come out ahead on the deal.

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Watsa’s BlackBerry’s share purchase

Back in March, Watsa said that he was still happy with his company’s investment in BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB) (then Research in Motion). He’d bought 51 million shares at an average price of $17, a total investment of around $867 million. If his offer of $9 per share is correct, Watsa has already lost nearly half a billion on BlackBerry, but he’s gone on record before saying that the company is incredibly undervalued.

“The turnaround story won’t happen overnight, and it’s only just getting started,” Watsa said last spring. “We think the fair value is around 40 something and the time horizon is long-term.”

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Of course, Watsa made those comments when people still thought the Q10 and Z10 models might give BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB) a second wind, and his valuation may have changed but he still feels comfortable shelling out more than $4 billion on a company that other people would have left for dead.

BlackBerry’s worth to increase after asset sales

There’s been a lot of speculation that BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB) might be worth more if its assets were sold piecemeal, but previous comments give a hint of what Watsa will do once he takes the company private.

“BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB) has the security like no other. You can’t get the kind of security you want on an iPhone. But we think BlackBerry has its place in the market,” he said over the summer. Now that selling BlackBerry smartphones looks like a fool’s errand, Watsa will likely focus on the strength that gave him so much confidence in the past and turn BlackBerry into a software and services firm. If he can extend access to BlackBerry’s messaging platform to companies whose employees use a diverse set of smartphones, he’ll probably have plenty of takers.

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Michael has a Bachelor's Degree in mathematics and physics from Boston University and Master's Degree in physics from University of California, San Diego. He has worked as an editor and writer for several magazines. Prior to his career in journalism, Michael Worked in the Peace Corps teaching math and science in South Africa.
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