BlackBerry Officially Open to Sale

BlackBerry bet everything on BlackBerry 10, its next-generation operating system.

BlackBerry is considering whether to sell itself off to the highest bidder.

The company’s Board of Directors has announced the founding of a Special Committee to explore so-called “strategic alternatives to enhance value and increase scale,” which apparently includes “possible joint ventures, strategic partnerships or alliances, a sale of the Company or other possible transactions.”

BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins added that, while the committee did its work, the company would continue to its recent overhead-reduction strategy. Prem Watsa, chairman and CEO of Fairfax Financial—BlackBerry’s largest shareholder—announced that he would resign from the company’s board in order to avoid a potential conflict of interest.

News that BlackBerry is considering a potential sale should surprise nobody. Faced with fierce competition from Google and Apple, the company’s market-share has tumbled over the past several quarters. In a desperate bid to regain its former prominence in the mobile-device industry, BlackBerry developed and released BlackBerry 10, a next-generation operating system meant to compete toe-to-toe against Google Android and Apple iOS—despite a massive ad campaign, however, early sales of BlackBerry 10 devices have proven somewhat underwhelming.

In addition to a pair of BlackBerry 10 “hero” devices loaded with top-quality hardware (the Z10 and Q10), BlackBerry recently unveiled the Q5, a device with a physical QWERTY keyboard aimed at the midrange global market. But it’s an open question whether the Q5 could make any headway in a market segment dominated by low-cost Android devices.

Earlier this year, Heins alluded to all possibilities being on the table with regard to the company’s future. “BlackBerry will pursue every opportunity to create value for shareholders,” BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins told the audience at the company’s annual meeting in July. Last quarter, the company reported an $84 million loss despite a rise in revenue and device shipments.

Ahead of any future sale, BlackBerry could still make drastic cuts to its programs and personnel. “The company will also continue to implement the cost savings and process-improving initiatives it started last year,” read the Outlook section of BlackBerry’s earnings report, “in order to drive greater efficiency throughout the company.” That doesn’t sound like good news to anyone—except maybe a buyer looking to snatch the company up at a bargain price.


Image: BlackBerry