Blackberry Ltd is up for sale through an auction. The Blackberry board put up the “for sale” signs sometime back and the beleaguered company has been receiving proposals (bids) from all sorts of suitors (potential buyers). The bidding deadline is Monday and here is a list of the companies and individuals that have so far expressed interest directly or indirectly to get a piece of the Blackberry cake. They range from co-founders to the world’s largest social network to private equity firms.
1. Co-founders Mike Lazaridis and Douglas Fregin
The two co-founders have for long been rumoured to be staging a takeover of the company they founded way back in 1984. They have never denied their intentions nor made an effort to hide them. Most recently, word has emerged that they are planning to partner with chip manufacturer Qualcomm and private investment firm Cerberus to mount a serious bid that will blow off Fairfax Holding’s bid out of the water and guarantee them the upper hand when the Monday bidding deadline reaches.
The Chinese company with big money that has been troubling everyone on its path. Lenovo has made a name for itself in every trade it is involved in. From wheezing past HP to become the world’s largest maker of personal computers last year to being a headache to other phone manufacturers in its home country of China and beating established players to enter the top five of the largest smartphone makers on the planet, its strength financial or otherwise cannot be understated. Last we heard about about Lenovo concerning its planned takeover of Blackberry, it was going through Blackberry’s financial books and we could hear more about them in coming days since they are able to outbid anyone.
These two are the latest entrants to this list of potential buyers. However, unlike the others, they are not going it alone. They are said to be partnering with co-founders Lazaridis and Fregin for a possible takeover. The reasons are pretty obvious why they are partnering with Blackberry’s co-founders instead of bidding by themselves either as a pair or separately. Qualcomm has a a market capitalization of about $120 billion and is the world’s largest maker of chips used in smartphones tot manage cellular communications and processing tasks; so it is very able to mount its own bid for Blackberry. What prevents it from doing so is that Blackberry is its customer and buying it will risk alienating other influential customers like Samsung Electronics that also have their own chip business but keep turning to it due to huge demand for their devices and Qualcomm’s advancements in technology (its chips integrate LTE). On the other hand, Cerberus Capital is an ivestment and equity firm and joint bids make sure it is cushioned from huge losses if things turn awry in the future.
Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd’s $4.7 billion preliminary offer which is based on a valuation of Blackberry at around $9 a share (a high) is what every bidder is chasing since it is on the higher side at a time Blackberry’s share price is wobbling at a figure below that ($7-8 per share). Fairfax Holdings is one of the largest shareholders in Blackberry where it holds a 10% stake. Prem Watsa, a former Blackberry board member is behind the company and he too hopes he can outbid the rest and get to keep the whole of Blackberry. Watsa is said to be working with some lenders like Bank of America Merrill Lynch and BMO Capital Markets to bankroll his bid.
Not much is known about Facebook’s dalliance with Blackberry but the Wall Street Journal reported last week that executives of both companies recently met to discuss various things with a possible acquisition by the world’s largest social network being top on the agenda. There’s just so much Facebook can do with a company like Blackberry and the prospect itself is very exciting seeing as it is that Blackberry’s Messenger app has been basking in glory with significant gains since it debuted on iOS and Android and Facebook is naturally an interested party in such business, never mind Blackberry’s vast connections with the enterprise world.
6. John Sculley
A former Pepsi executive, Sculley is (in)famous for his dramatic fallout with Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and subsequently engineering a plan that saw Jobs ousted from his company and heralding Apple’s downturn that only Jobs managed to come back and contain over two decades later. He is a long time Blackberry fan and very well oiled. His is a fan’s desire to save a company he likes unlike Qualcomm’s which is a bid to not only get other things but also save a customer.
7. Others (Google, SAP, Samsung, Cisco, LG, Intel)
Blackberry is a big company and as such every other company with the money to buy it woould be automatically interested in getting a piece of it. All these companies have expressed interest, albeit minute compared to the others listed in this article, in acquiring the Canadian company. Since there is usually a lot of secrecy surrounding such deals, we cannot be sure how far they are with their bids or if at all they were serious in the first place. Reports say that SAP is no longer interested but analysts have not yet ruled it out.
It won’t be long till we find out Blackberry’s future but till then, these companies and individuals are to watch out for.