Business Technology

Friday 22 September 2017

BlackBerry investor bids $4.7bn for struggling phone firm

CEO Thorsten Heins
CEO Thorsten Heins

Hugo Miller

BlackBerry got a tentative $4.7bn (€3.5bn) buyout offer from a group led by its biggest shareholder, forging a path to go private.

The group led by Fairfax Financial Holdings would offer $9 a share – a small premium over BlackBerry's closing price last week. Fairfax is also Bank of Ireland's third-largest shareholder. The consortium is still seeking financing for the offer, which will be subject to due diligence and negotiation.

The Canadian company said last week that it was cutting 4,500 jobs and taking a writedown of as much as $960m for unsold inventory of its Z10 phone – a touch-screen device unveiled as its answer to the iPhone.

BlackBerry said the Fairfax-led group would be able to scrutinise its books in the next six weeks, during which time the smartphone maker could seek other takeover bids.

FIZZLED

Chief executive Thorsten Heins had bet the Z10 would become BlackBerry's new flagship, restoring cachet and prosperity to the one-time smartphone leader. Instead, the model fizzled and contributed to the company's weakest quarterly sales in six years.

"This transaction will open an exciting new private chapter for BlackBerry, its customers, carriers and employees," Fairfax boss Prem Watsa said. "We can deliver immediate value to shareholders, while we continue the execution of a long-term strategy."

Mr Watsa stepped down from BlackBerry's board last month to avoid a conflict of interest as the company sought a buyer.

Fairfax has a 9.9pc stake in BlackBerry. Shares in BlackBerry rose 3pc following the news.

BlackBerry, credited with inventing the first smartphones more than a decade ago, once sold products that were so popular and addictive they were known as CrackBerrys. In recent years, the company failed to keep pace with Apple and Samsung.

The group, led by Toronto-based Fairfax, is seeking financing from Merrill Lynch unit and from BMO Capital Markets. BlackBerry didn't name the other members of the takeover consortium. (Bloomberg)

Irish Independent

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