Lenovo is reviewing a possible Research In Motion takeover.
“We are looking at all opportunities—RIM and many others,” Lenovo CFO Wong Wai Ming told an interviewer at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, according to Bloomberg.
A RIM acquisition would certainly make sense for Lenovo, which would then have a significant mobile division to complement its PC manufacturing business. Despite a significant decline in market-share over the past few years, RIM retains a sizable base of government and enterprise customers. Inheriting those customers, along with RIM’s patent and technology portfolio, could boost Lenovo’s revenue and profits at a time when the PC market is suffering from anemic sales.
Earlier this week, RIM CEO Thorsten Heins told German newspaper Die Welt that the company had several strategic options for the future under consideration, including “the sale of the hardware production [and] licensing our software.” RIM is preparing to launch BlackBerry 10, its next-generation smartphone platform, later this month.
But some obstacles stand in the way of a potential Lenovo-RIM acquisition. RIM hosts secure communications for the Canadian and U.S. governments, which would need to review any deal from a security standpoint before giving their approval; according to Bloomberg, it’s possible that RIM could sell off its hardware arm to Lenovo while retaining its software-and-network assets.
“If the key intellectual property and software is being kept in Canada, I think the government would sign off on a deal for just the hardware,” Michael Genovese, an analyst with MKM Partners, told the newswire.
For RIM, everything hinges on the upcoming release of BlackBerry 10. The operating system is a radical reimaging of the traditional BlackBerry OS: In place of grids of icons linked to applications, the BlackBerry 10 home-screen offers “live tiles” that dynamically refresh with updated information. Users can move between apps by swiping, peek at notifications by “flicking” the screen from the bottom, and filter email and social accounts through a Hub. RIM has been encouraging third-party developers to build apps for the platform.
If BlackBerry 10 proves a hit, it could give RIM far more leverage to negotiate any sort of deal with Lenovo or another entity. And if it tanks, that could kick off a chain of events that lead to RIM selling off its assets at a discount.
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