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WSJ: BlackBerry talks to bidders, seeks quick sale

Sept. 5, 2013 at 3:30 AM   |   Comments

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NEW YORK, Sept. 5 (UPI) -- Canadian smartphone maker BlackBerry Ltd. has talked with possible buyers and hopes to complete a sale within two months, The Wall Street Journal reported.

People familiar with the matter didn't say with which buyer prospects the beleaguered company was in discussions, but one person told the Journal the Waterloo, Ontario, company had narrowed its list and expected a sales process to begin soon, with the hope of concluding it by November.

A sales process does not guarantee a sale or even serious bids.

Blackberry had no immediate comment on the report.

National Bank of Canada analyst Kris Thompson said a quick sale made sense.

"The longer the strategic review lasts, the uglier BlackBerry's outlook may look," he said in a note to clients Wednesday.

"Our view is that enterprises will further delay implementations and even die-hard consumers will catch wind that BlackBerry is for sale and not commit to the platform," he said.

The 29-year-old company said Aug. 12 it would "explore strategic alternatives" after a line of wireless devices operating on a new operating system, dubbed BlackBerry 10, got a tepid response in the consumer market at its launch this spring.

BlackBerry was betting the devices would help it catch up with Apple Inc.'s iPhone and phones running on Google Inc.'s Android software.

The company said its board had set up a five-person committee and hired JPMorgan Chase & Co. to examine its options, including a sale, joint ventures and strategic partnerships.

Private-equity firms and possibly some Asian technology companies are expected to consider a deal for at least part of the company, the Journal said Wednesday.

Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. of Toronto, BlackBerry's biggest shareholder, with 10 percent, has expressed interest in the company.

Its chief executive officer, Prem Watsa, resigned from the BlackBerry board Aug. 12 "due to potential conflicts that may arise" from BlackBerry's strategic review, the company said at the time.

Fairfax executives are exploring ways of putting together a group to buy BlackBerry, The New York Times and Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail reported.

The group includes private-equity and industry players, The Globe and Mail said.

Watsa has said Fairfax intends to retain its BlackBerry stake and feels the market is undervaluing the company.

BlackBerry stock, which once traded above $200, closed Wednesday up 2.1 percent, or 23 cents, at $10.98 on the Nasdaq stock exchange and up 4.93 percent, or 53 cents, at $11.28 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Any BlackBerry deal would likely include more than one buyer, each taking over part of the company, one person told the Journal.

The Journal report followed Microsoft Corp.'s agreement Monday to acquire the handset and services business of Nokia Corp., a cellphone pioneer like BlackBerry, for about $7.2 billion.

Microsoft is among the tech giants BlackBerry advisers had eyed as a likely buyer, the Journal reported last month.

BlackBerry once controlled more than half the U.S. market for phones that handle email and Web browsing. It now controls about 3 percent, U.S. technology research company International Data Corp. said last month.

"However, BlackBerry has shown steady progress since the launch of its BB 10 platform, which has grown to three models, additional mobile operators, and a greater presence within its total volumes," IDC said. "It is still early days for the platform, however, and BlackBerry will need time and resources to evangelize more end users."

The BB 10 operating system includes three smartphones and a tablet handheld device.

Topics: Google
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