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Old 09-04-2013, 08:43 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: blackberry to speed up sales of company

BlackBerry Ltd., the beleaguered smartphone maker that has put itself up for sale, is aiming to run a fast auction process that could be wrapped up by November, according to people familiar with the matter.

BlackBerry announced in August that it had formed a special committee of board members to "explore strategic alternatives." Since then, the company has held preliminary talks with parties interested in buying part or all of the company, one of the people said. It has narrowed its list of potential bidders to seek out in a sales process expected to begin soon, this person said.

It is far from guaranteed any serious bids will materialize or that the company will pull off a sale in that time frame, if at all. But BlackBerry's board is pushing for a quick resolution to the sales process, one of the people said.

The push to find a buyer comes after one speculated buyer of BlackBerry, Microsoft Corp., struck a deal Monday to buy the handset unit of Nokia Corp. for $7 billion. The deal could add to pressure on BlackBerry's sales, analysts say.

The Microsoft-Nokia deal likely "secures" for Microsoft the No. 3 position in the smartphone market and "further relegates [BlackBerry] to the also-ran bin," MKM Partners analysts said in a note.

Fierce competition from bigger, more nimble competitors like Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. has relentlessly whittled away at BlackBerry's sales. The Waterloo, Ontario, company once controlled more than half of the U.S. market for phones that handle email and Web-browsing, but now has just 3%, according to research firm IDC. Its future prospects were further dimmed when two devices it introduced earlier this year; the all-touch-screen Z10 and a keyboard-equipped Q10;fell short of expectations.

The rapid erosion of BlackBerry's business likely helps explain its desire to conclude the sales process quickly, and salvage as much value for the company as possible. Its stock, which once traded above $200, now changes hands at just over $10. The shares rose 43 cents, or 4.2%, to $10.64 in mid-afternoon Nasdaq trading Wednesday, giving the company a market capitalization of about $5.6 billion.

What's more, the company's announcement of a strategic review may further dampen its sales, particularly to corporate, or enterprise, customers, analysts say.

"Our view is that enterprises will further delay implementations and even die-hard consumers will catch wind that BlackBerry is for sale and not commit to the platform," National Bank analyst Kris Thompson said in a note to clients Wednesday. "The longer the strategic review lasts, the uglier BlackBerry's outlook may look."

It is unclear who held the preliminary talks with BlackBerry or its representatives, but private-equity players and possibly some Asian tech companies are expected to at least consider a deal for the company. Any BlackBerry deal will likely include more than one buyer each taking over part of the company, one of the people said.

Prem Watsa, a director of the company and the chief executive of its largest shareholder, resigned from the board when the strategic-alternatives announcement was made, citing "potential conflicts that may arise during the process." That was viewed as a signal by investors that he was potentially interested in participating in a bid for the company. Mr. Watsa hasn't respond to requests for comment.

Last week, a member of BlackBerry's special board committee, Bert Nordberg, said in an interview that the company should sell off "subsets," without specifying which, and that it could survive as a "niche company." BlackBerry has weighed spinning off its messaging service, The Wall Street Journal reported last week.

BlackBerry has hired J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. to run the sales process.
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