BlackBerry on sale, but buyers eye meat cleaver for carve up job

Sep 16 2013, 15:22 IST
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A Blackberry Z10 smartphone is displayed at a store in New York. (Reuters) A Blackberry Z10 smartphone is displayed at a store in New York. (Reuters)
SummaryPvt equity firms are mostly interested in BlackBerry OS and patents around its keyboard.

BlackBerry Ltd has been put on sale, but potential buyers may well end up carving choice meat out of the once-mammoth company, leaving the rest in tatters.

A handful of potential bidders, including private equity firms, are lining up to look at BlackBerry Ltd, but initial indications suggest that interest is tepid and buyers are eyeing parts of the Canadian smartphone maker rather than the whole company, several sources familiar with the situation said.

BlackBerry Messaging service is hot

Private equity firms are mostly interested in businesses such as BlackBerry's operating system and the patents around its keyboard, two of the sources said. However, one possibility is for a Canadian pension fund to team up with an investor to buy the whole company, which is currently worth a little more than $5 billion, one of the sources said.

BlackBerry's biggest shareholder, Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd, has approached several large Canadian investment funds about forging a deal to take the smartphone maker private, Reuters reported last week.

Fairfax has a 10 per cent stake, and its chairman and chief executive, Prem Watsa, has left BlackBerry's board already to avoid any possible conflict of interest as the company assesses its strategic options.

Related: BlackBerry 'gives up' fight accepts fate of niche player

Nevertheless, in recent days a few private equity firms have signed confidentiality agreements or have agreed to meetings with the company to gain access to the company's books, the sources said, adding that the sale process was expected to start in a few weeks. BlackBerry declined to comment.

The apparent lack of interest among private equity firms in the whole company underscores the challenges BlackBerry has been facing in competing with rivals such as Apple Inc's iPhone and devices using Google Inc's Android technology.

Its new BlackBerry devices hit store shelves this year just as the high-end smartphone segment was showing signs of saturation in markets such as the United States. Samsung Electronics recently reported results that fell shy of expectations, while Apple earlier this year reported its first quarterly profit decline in more than a decade.

The new BlackBerry device has so far failed to gain traction with consumers, and the company - which pioneered mobile email with its first smartphones and email pagers and was once a stock market darling - has seen its shares plummet. Its market value has fallen to $5.4 billion, from $84 billion at its

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