BlackBerry searches for a buyer

BlackBerry is exploring a number of “strategic alternatives” to turnaround its faltering performance, including the possibility of a joint venture, technology partnerships or a sale of the company.

BlackBerry Q10 Lily Cole
Model Lily Cole at the BlackBerry Q10 launch in Selfridges, London earlier this year.

The Ontario-based smartphone maker has formed a special committee among its board of directors to assess its options as it fails to keep up with the pace of its rivals. In its most recent quarter, BlackBerry posted a loss of $84m (£54m), a figure worse than analysts’ estimates, and the company forecast a successive loss in the three months to September.

Once the darling of the smartphone industry, with its devices’ QWERTY keyboards and the proprietary BBM messaging software being a particular draw among both the business and teen market, BlackBerry now has only a 10.7 per cent share of the smartphones owned in the UK – behind HTC, Apple and Samung – according to comScore.

BlackBerry’s special committee is comprised of president and chief executive officer Thorsten Heins, chairman Barbara Stymiest and Bert Nordberg and Richard Lynch, who sit on the company’s board of directors. Chairing the group will be Timothy Dattels, board member and senior partner of private investment firm TPG Capital.

Dattels says now was the right time to explore strategic alternatives for the company, given the “importance and strength” of its technology and the “evolving industry and competitive landscape”.

Thorstein Heins says the company continues to see “compelling long-term opportunities” for the recently launched BlackBerry 10 operating system and that it has a “strong balance sheet”.

He adds: “As the special committee focuses on exploring alternatives, we will be continuing with our strategy of reducing cost, driving efficiency and accelerating the deployment of BES 10, as well as driving adoption of BlackBerry 10 smartphones, launching the multi-platform BBM social messaging service, and pursuing mobile computing opportunities by leveraging the secure and reliable BlackBerry Global Data Network.”

BlackBerry’s share price jumped almost 6 per cent to $9.76 over the weekend following a Reuters report which claimed the smartphone maker’s management was considering taking the company private.

Prem Watsa, chairman and CEO of Fairfax Financial – the largest BlackBerry shareholder – has resigned from his position on the BlackBerry board due to potential conflicts that may arise during the exploration process.

In January BlackBerry rebranded from its former corporate moniker Research In Motion in a bid to reflect how the company had “reinvented” itself with the launch of its flagship BB10 technology. 

The company has substantially increased its marketing spend year on year as it looks to drive cut-through for its Z10, Q10 and Q5 devices in the crowded smartphone space. BlackBerry did not reveal in its latest financial report how many handsets running the BB10 operating system were sold in the quarter, although it did reveal shipments of new smartphones increased year on year. 

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