BlackBerry inks US$4.7-billion deal with Toronto-based Fairfax
Jonathan Zettel, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, September 23, 2013 9:21AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, September 23, 2013 11:21PM EDT
BlackBerry has signed a deal with a consortium led by Toronto-based Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited to sell the beleaguered tech-giant.
The US$4.7-billion deal announced on Monday would give shareholders $9 per share in cash.
On Friday, BlackBerry announced 4,500 job cuts, a maneuver many saw as a primer for sale.
The consortium led by Fairfax, which already owns approximately 10 per cent of BlackBerry, will be allowed a six-week period to conduct due diligence during which time BlackBerry will be allowed to shop for a better deal.
Barbara Stymiest, chair of BlackBerry's board of directors, said that they are looking for the best possible outcome for the company's situation.
"The go-shop process provides an opportunity to determine if there are alternatives superior to the present proposal from the Fairfax consortium," Stymiest said in a press release.
Prem Watsa, Chairmen and CEO of Fairfax said that the deal will open a new and exciting chapter for BlackBerry and its customers.
"We can deliver immediate value to shareholders, while we continue the execution of a long-term strategy in a private company with a focus on delivering superior and secure enterprise solutions to BlackBerry customers around the world," Watsa said in a press release.
The offer halted trading of BlackBerry stocks worth only half of what they were in January. Trading resumed at 2 p.m.
In June 2008 the company’s stock was worth $149.90 but on Friday, BlackBerry stocks closed at C$9.08. It jumped as high as $9.25 after trading resumed on Monday on the Toronto Stock Exchange, but settled back to closing at $9.08.
BlackBerry still has many hurdles to overcome
Manish Kacker, a marketing professor at McMaster University, says that the potential deal with Fairfax is probably best for both shareholders and the company but adds there is still a long road ahead.
"It's better for them to have this new structure in place so that they can enact a turn-around strategy rather than waiting for things to get much worse," Kacker told CTV News Channel.
Kacker says the deal gives the company stability in which they can explore strategies that could include selling patents, focus their energies to enterprise and away from the consumer market, and licensing out services.
"None of these strategies are sure-shot successful strategies, so there is still a long way to go," Kacker said.
Kacker says it is difficult to a brand like BlackBerry reduced to its current stature, but added that this is not uncommon in the tech industry.
"Brands can lose their equity very quickly," Kacker said.
The Waterloo-based tech giant has floundered recently after disappointing sales of its Z10 smartphones. Last week, amid deep uncertainty, BlackBerry released a final attempt to impress the consumer market by unveiling the new model Z30.
On Friday the company announced that it would be cutting 40 per cent of its work force and projected second-quarter losses of nearly $1 billion.
Adding to the company’s woes, BlackBerry announced this weekend that it paused plans to make its popular messaging system BBM available for Android and iPhone users after an unreleased version of the app was leaked online.
"Consequently, this unreleased version caused issues, which we have attempted to address throughout the day," BlackBerry announced on its official blog.
Despite recent debacles, some analysts pointed to BlackBerry's popularity with governments, militaries, and businesses.
"It's easy to sort of lose sight of the fact when every headline is negative, but really this is still a company that has a huge amount of value inherent in it," tech analyst Carmi Levy told CTV’s Canada AM on Monday.
BlackBerry also has the largest portfolio of intellectual property patents of any Canadian company and is still recognized as a global leader in telecommunication security.
Levy says he would not be surprised if the company moved completely out of the handset market to focus solely on software development and securities.
"There is a future," Levy said. "But it's going to look very different than it does now."
The opposition's industry critic, New Democrat MP Chris Charlton, says the situation at BlackBerry is being monitored closely and that his party hopes the new Canadian owners of BlackBerry can revive the company.
"In the meantime, we urge the government to make sure that workers affected by last week’s massive layoffs are helped through this difficult time," Charlton said in a statement.
BlackBerry was founded in 1984 – then known as Research in Motion (RIM) -- and has been a publicly traded company for 16 years. It has offices in 36 countries and at its height employed 20,000 people.