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Reception to this announcement will probably be divided. Some will be delighted that BlackBerry is finally ready to sell itself, seemingly for parts while others mourn the passing of the company that pretty much made smartphones popular.
The Canadian-based company announced on Monday that it was forming a special committee “to explore strategic alternatives to enhance value and increase scale in order to accelerate BlackBerry 10 deployment”.
Among those options are “possible joint ventures, strategic partnerships or alliances”, and most strikingly, “a sale of the company or other possible transactions”.
That’s a new low for a company whose devices were once so ubiquitous and widely used that, as The Guardian points out, they were referred to as “Crackberrys” for their seemingly addictive qualities.
Interestingly however, the company’s largest shareholder, Fairfax International, says it has no intention of selling its stake in the company.
“I continue to be a strong supporter of the Company, the Board and Management as they move forward during this process, and Fairfax Financial has no current intention of selling its shares,” said Fairfax CEO and chairman Prem Watsa.
AllThingsD reckons that might be because Watsa might want to take the company private. Certainly, his resignation from the BlackBerry board for “potential conflicts” suggests that possibility.
That might be a favourable outcome for BlackBerry because, while it’s exploring its options, it doesn’t seem all that keen to give up on its technology.
“During the past year, management and the Board have been focused on launching the BlackBerry 10 platform and BES 10, establishing a strong financial position, and evaluating the best approach to delivering long-term value for customers and shareholders,” said Timothy Dattels, Chairman of BlackBerry’s Special Committee of the Board. “Given the importance and strength of our technology, and the evolving industry and competitive landscape, we believe that now is the right time to explore strategic alternatives.”
BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins meanwhile said that the Waterloo-based company remains committed to pushing BlackBerry 10. “As the Special Committee focuses on exploring alternatives, we will be continuing with our strategy of reducing cost, driving efficiency and accelerating the deployment of BES 10, as well as driving adoption of BlackBerry 10 smartphones, launching the multi-platform BBM social messaging service, and pursuing mobile computing opportunities by leveraging the secure and reliable BlackBerry Global Data Network,” he said.
While the company says that there’s no certainty that the committee’s explorations will result in anything actually happening, it can’t be a good sign. After all, the turnaround it saw during its Q4 2013 financial report was juxtaposed by with a sharp decline in its Q1 2014 earnings.
Here’s the thing though, the market seems to think that the formation of this exploratory committee is an excellent idea. In the wake of the announcement, BlackBerry shares leaped more than 10%.
In this instance, it might actually have a point too — especially if the committee decides to take real action. Anyone likely to buy BlackBerry is bound to be in a healthy financial space and could push it in a viable direction. An alliance with another phone maker could also be a very good thing. After all the trouble with the BlackBerry 10 devices to come out so far hasn’t been the operating system (it’s gorgeous) but the devices themselves.
Imagine BlackBerry teaming up with someone capable of building gorgeous phones, truly capable of taking on the world’s top-tier devices. If what they came up with sold well, then splitting the profits would still be much more tenable than the place it currently finds itself in.
If the committee decides to do nothing however, we can’t imagine the market being as kind. It would most likely be perceived as blind perseverance, despite the changes BlackBerry has made over the last couple of years.
The perception is that the company needs to adapt and build a new role for itself, because number one global smartphone manufacturer doesn’t seem like one it’ll ever play again.