BlackBerry to be acquired by Fairfax Financial for $4.7 billion

Smartphones maker BlackBerry will be acquired by group led by Fairfax Financial Holdings for $4.7 billion.

Last month, Microsoft offered to buy Nokia phone business for $7.2 billion.

Computing major Intel is also going private. Intel could be a potential buyer of BlackBerry.

In 2012, Motorola was acquired by Google for $12 billion.

BlackBerry does not share more specific information on the deal. Nokia was sold to Microsoft to arrest declining sales. Microsoft wants to focus on devices and services.

Earlier, there were indications that BlackBerry BBM messaging and hardware businesses would be divested separately.

Barbara Stymiest, chair of BlackBerry’s Board of Directors, said: “The Special Committee is seeking the best available outcome for the Company’s constituents, including for shareholders. Importantly, the go-shop process provides an opportunity to determine if there are alternatives superior to the present proposal from the Fairfax consortium.”

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The Ontario-based BlackBerry, which will eliminate around 4500 jobs globally, said it had signed a letter of intent with a group led by Fairfax Financial Holdings, which has offered to acquire the company.

Fairfax, a Canadian firm headed by billionaire Prem Watsa, is already BlackBerry’s largest shareholder with approximately 10 percent of its shares.

Watsa resigned from BlackBerry’s board in August when it announced a search for a suitor.

Watsa said the sale will open an exciting new private chapter for BlackBerry, its customers, carriers and employees.

BlackBerry is struggling to sell smartphones at a time when its rival Apple announced on Monday that it sold a record nine million iPhones in three days after launching two new versions of its smartphone last week.

According to IDC, BlackBerry’s global smartphone market share had slipped to 3.7 percent in the second quarter. Android OS accounts for nearly 80 percent.

BlackBerry last week predicted a nearly $1 billion second quarter loss due to poor sales of its new Z10 touch screen smartphone, which was aimed at competing with Apple and Android’s flagships.

The company could attract firms like IBM, HP or Dell if it focused on business communications not private consumers, said industry analysts. Interestingly, BlackBerry could not attract enough buyers.

Telecom industry analysts including Ovum are giving thumbs down to the acquisition.

First, the company’s device sales are cratering, and its announcement last week that it no longer intends to pursue the consumer market is essentially the death knell for this business. BlackBerry’s supply chain relies on scale for profitability, and it will never again be able to achieve the scale necessary to make money on devices. It’s likely that BlackBerry will be out of the device business entirely by the middle of next year, according to Ovum.

The next challenge is that BlackBerry’s other businesses are all to a greater or lesser extent dependent on its devices business. BlackBerry Messenger’s installed base is entirely on BlackBerry devices, and its launch on iOS and Android was aborted over the weekend. It’s mobile device management business is entirely based on its ability to manage BlackBerry devices, and its cross-platform management is much less well established than those of major competitors like MobileIron and Airwatch.

“If you strip out BlackBerry’s use of its QNX operating system for BlackBerry devices, you’re left with a business that’s worth less than $100 million. About the only part of BlackBerry that looks to be worth a significant amount at this point is its patent portfolio, and that certainly wouldn’t justify the purchase price on its own,” said Jan Dawson, chief telecoms analyst at Ovum.

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