Who Will Buy BlackBerry?

By Gary Kim August 15, 2013

Speculation about which companies might seek to buy BlackBerry, now that the firm has put itself up for sale, nearly always involves Lenovo. In the past, Microsoft would have been among the suggested potential buyers.

That seems to many observers less likely now, in part because of complications Microsoft would face, given its tight relationship with Nokia. Also, there is some evidence Windows Mobile already is gaining momentum, and will pass BlackBerry in market share, in any case.

For Lenovo, the drivers might be the advantages of footprint.

Lenovo has emerged as the top supplier in China, but obviously sees its future as a supplier of smart phones and other devices throughout the developing world. BlackBerry has strength in Africa, for example.

Microsoft, perennially, has been considered a firm which desperately needs to make gains in the smartphone market, and so far has been unable to do so. Though, some recent data shows BlackBerry has dropped so much that Windows Mobile now has surpassed BlackBerry in market share for the first time.

But BlackBerry is a Canadian company, and Canada’s largest technology company. Already Canadian interests are working to assemble a Canadian group to buy BlackBerry.

Would Canada allow such an asset to be sold to Chinese interests? Equally important, after losing Nortel Networks to bankruptcy, will Canadian financial interests allow BlackBerry either to go bankrupt or be sold to any investment group from outside Canada?

Some observers think a domestic buyer group will succeed in keeping BlackBerry a Canadian company.

In that regard, some have interpreted the resignation of BlackBerry board member Prem Watsa, the company's largest investor with a 9.9 percent stake, a sign of such interest. Watsa said he was resigning "due to potential conflicts that may arise during the process."

Some think Watsa could be assembling a consortium to make a purchase offer. Watsa has said that he believes BlackBerry can turn itself around, but that it might take three to five years. Watsa is the founder of insurance company Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. and is one of Canada's best-known investors.

BGC Financial analyst Colin Gillis said Watsa, partnered with some financial backers like a pension fund, could be bidders. But some other technology suppliers with roots in some part of the PC business might be thinking BlackBerry would help them make a transition away from PCs and towards mobile.


Edited by Stefania Viscusi

Contributing Editor

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