BlackBerry’s Long and Strange Goodbye--Continued

Carl Weinschenk
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How to Choose the Right Mobile Device: Five Considerations

You don’t have to be a public relations specialist to understand that a company that takes out newspaper advertisements around the world assuring people that it is solvent is not in good shape.

That’s what happened today. The text of the ad essentially says that the company is financially stable and is doing what it needs to survive. This sentence is particularly interesting:

We are restructuring with a goal to cut our expenses by 50 percent in order to run a very efficient, customer-oriented organization.

If there was 50 percent to cut–and if that had to be done in order to create an efficient organization–why weren’t those steps taken when the company had a chance to survive?

That’s academic at this point. It is clear that BlackBerry will not go on in its current form for too long. One company, Fairfax Financial Holdings, has put its cards on the table and offered $4.7 billion for the beleaguered company.

The situation is uncertain. Fairfax, according to Bloomberg, is rumored to be having trouble putting the financing together. The story says that BlackBerry has until Nov. 4 to consider other offers. The commentary in the story is that various companies–possibly including SAP, Cisco and Samsung–may be talking with BlackBerry management about buying pieces of the company. An expert quoted in the story suggested that the pieces cumulatively are likely worth more than the whole.

The thought was elaborated upon at InformationWeek. Ironically, the element that will be jettisoned first may be the most visible:

Looking at the individual components shows that BlackBerry still holds plenty of value. The company's wireless and smartphone patents could go for between $1.6 and $3 billion, say analysts at Raymond James Financial and MDB Capital Group. BlackBerry's enterprise network alone could be sold for $550 million to $1.1 billion. BlackBerry's $2.6 billion stockpile of cash is appealing, as is the fact that it has no debt. Sadly, BlackBerry's smartphone hardware business is not profitable, and it isn't considered to be an asset. Potential buyers are likely to simply shut it down.

The story said that private capital investment firm Cerberus Capital Management also is interested and aims to sign a confidentiality agreement with BlackBerry to enable it to take a deeper look.

Among the most interesting possible outcomes would be a BlackBerry-to-the-future arrangement in which co-founders Mike Lazaridis and Douglas Fregin get deeply involved. The possibility was reported widely, including at CNNMoney. Few details–such as whether they are interested in the whole company or the a la carte plan–are available. Each of the founders owns 8 percent of the company.

Nothing seems to be happening easily for BlackBerry. But those who care about the company can say one thing: Even after years of travail, an end game this difficult suggests that what remains still has value.

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