BlackBerry Gets an Offer
We are now officially into the next phase of the ongoing saga of BlackBerry, but if the deal goes through, it could at least put a stop to the company's free fall. BlackBerry is not going away.
BlackBerry announced that it has signed a letter of intent to be acquired by a group led by Fairfax Financial Holdings for $9 per share, valuing the company at $4.7 billion; in 2009 the company's shares were trading over $90. In August, the company announced that it was putting together a special committee to look at "strategic alternatives". Last week also brought news that BlackBerry would be cutting another 4,500 employees, or 40% of the workforce. At its peak, BlackBerry had 17,000 employees, and that will shrink to around 6,750 after this next wave of cuts.
Fairfax has agreed to finish its due diligence by November 4, and in the meantime the smartphone maker is permitted to enter into talks with other potential suitors. "The special committee is seeking the best available outcome for the company's constituents, including for shareholders," Barbara Stymiest, BlackBerry's chairwoman, said in a statement. She added that the process in place "provides an opportunity to determine if there are alternatives superior to the present proposal from the Fairfax consortium."
This is probably the best outcome for the beleaguered smartphone maker, who can now try to get itself in a stable position outside of the pressures of the market. Even with the new BlackBerry 10-based Z10 and Q10 models and the recently announced Z30, BlackBerry has essentially disappeared from the consumer market.
It is important to note that the company still has a valuable franchise in secure enterprise mobility, as well as millions of loyal followers and a worldwide brand. Even with the move to BYOD, the InformationWeek 2013 State of Mobile Security report found that 60% of mobile devices accessing corporate email are still company-provided, and Blackberry represented 27% of those, following Apple's 40% and slightly ahead of Android's 24%; both of those other platforms bested BlackBerry in the user-owned category.
If the deal goes through, it should give the company some breathing room to evaluate its options going forward. There has been talk of selling off some of its assets, most recently, the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service. The company also announced that it would support BBM on iOS and Android devices, though the plan ran into a bit of a snag when an unreleased version was posted online and caused issues that delayed the official launch.
So we are now officially into the next phase of the ongoing saga of BlackBerry, but assuming the deal goes through, it could at least put a stop to the company's extended free fall. BlackBerry is not going away, and with the right management and strategy, it could continue on for many years to come. It's unlikely we'll see the "glory days" again, but we will have at least one company that is focused on enterprise mobility.