BlackBerry CEO says 'I feel a lot better' about company's new direction
Marlene Leung, CTVNews.ca
Published Friday, March 28, 2014 2:18PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, March 28, 2014 5:50PM EDT
Less than six months after being brought in to turn around BlackBerry, CEO John Chen says he's feeling optimistic about the company's future and noted that there may be "momentum building" behind the brand.
Chen, who was brought in to take the helm at BlackBerry last November, said that the Canadian company has made a return to a more "healthy" position, in terms of cash burn, loss and inventory. This means that it can now start focusing on growth, after months of cuttings costs, he said
"It's going to be long term, but I feel a lot better," he told BNN on Friday following the release of the company’s fourth-quarter results.
BlackBerry reported a fourth-quarter loss Friday of $US423 million, compared with a profit of $98 million a year ago.
The company's revenue fell to $976 million for the three months ended March 1. Analysts had expected about a loss of about $1.1 billion for the latest quarter.
Chen said he's particularly encouraged by the company's new strategy, which includes expanding its software and services businesses.
"All things seem to be pointing in the right direction," Chen said. "But the real encouraging thing is that we have a pretty good strategy. We've laid it out and went out and talked to the customers, and it seems to resonate.
"That makes me feel a lot better because it feels that there might be momentum building."
Chen acknowledged that BlackBerry faces stiff competition in the smartphone market, but noted that the company remains the leader among governments.
"This is a competitive landscape, obviously," he said, when asked about rumours that Samsung and LG had been beta-testing their devices with government agencies.
"Being an incumbent, as long as we keep up with the technology we have a much better chance of being there," he said. "But I never take anything for granted. Other people are coming in and they're strong players, so we have to compete, and I feel good about our chances, but I can't guarantee it."
And when it comes to security – a highly desired feature for governments – BlackBerry is the company to beat, Chen said.
Going forward, the company will expand its popular BBM messaging service to include additional voice, video and archive features, he said. The service has remained one of the company's more successful products, with more than 85 million active users.
"It's really one of the unique platforms in the industry," he said.
When asked if he would consider selling BBM for a hypothetical $1 billion, he said that that valuation doesn’t even “come close” to its true value.
"Just selling that … it has to be worth a lot for our shareholders, because it is part of our integrated recovery strategy,” he said.
He added that in the next two to three years he wants to double the revenue that comes from the company's software products, which include BBM and QNX. Currently, BlackBerry's software generates between six and seven per cent of the company's revenue, he said.
Meanwhile, the U.S.-based Chen said he has no plans to move or relocate BlackBerry to south of the border.
Earlier this month BlackBerry announced it was selling most of its Canadian real estate holdings.
"We have no plans to be not a Canadian company," he said. "I'm here to help to engineer a turnaround. This is a big iconic name for Canada, (and) I wish to do that well for Canada.
“If I ever will be able to turn this around, I jokingly ask people to give me an honorary citizenship."
With files from The Canadian Press