BlackBerry gets ready to announce new bidder or seal deal with Fairfax

It's crunch time for anyone who wants a piece of BlackBerry, as a six-week due-diligence period ends for bidder Fairfax

BlackBerry is expected to announce a definitive merger agreement with Fairfax Financial Holdings on Monday -- or present an alternative bidder to help get the company back on track, with the latter group including the likes of Qualcomm.

Six weeks have passed since a consortium led by Fairfax announced it had bid approximately US$4.7 billion for BlackBerry. The terms of the bid allowed for Fairfax to conduct a six week long due-diligence investigation that ends on Monday, while allowing BlackBerry to enter into negotiations with other bidders.

A number of different companies and people have reportedly shown interest in BlackBerry, including a group numbering BlackBerry co-founders Mike Lazaridis and Doug Fregin, chip maker Qualcomm and Cerberus Capital Management among its members, according to the Wall Street Journal. Other rumored interested parties are Lenovo, Cisco Systems, SAP, Google and former Apple CEO John Sculley.

"If a deal with Qualcomm was confirmed, that would be very interesting," said Malik Saadi, principal analyst with Informa Telecoms & Media.

Qualcomm has a history of using software and hardware to push its chip business, including the Brew platform, which is used to power advanced feature phones, according to Saadi. The two could also work together on combining software from BlackBerry subsidiary QNX and Qualcomm's chipsets for use in automotive and other machine-to-machine applications, he said.

Not everyone is convinced that BlackBerry and Qualcomm are such a good fit. It would make more sense if someone like Samsung Electronics and Lenovo -- who could make use BlackBerry's enterprise assets, including messaging -- were to acquire the company, according to Roberta Cozza, research director at Gartner.

Both Saadi and Cozza agreed that BlackBerry's intellectual property, enterprise software and QNX are its strongest assets, and that the device business is unlikely to be part of any buyer's long-term plans.

"Whoever buys BlackBerry, there are two things I always say they should do: get rid of the hardware because its the weakest link, and tap into the strongest link, which is the software business," Saadi said.

BlackBerry's smartphone OS share dropped to just 1 percent during the third quarter, compared to 4.3 percent during the same period last year, according to Strategy Analytics. In the same period shipments fell from 7.4 million to 2.5 million, the market research company said.

However, last week BlackBerry also said that it had added 20 million new users on BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) one week after it had launched versions for iOS and Android, which is good news and shows there is some interest for the service, according to Saadi.

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Mikael Ricknäs

IDG News Service
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