Early Monday morning things started off with a bang. BlackBerry announced that it’s board of directors had established a special committee to look at strategic alternatives including a possible sale of the company. I already discussed the matter briefly here and also here.
I’ve been reading lots of the other news stories and watching some of the video clips. I notice that pretty much every headline says something like, “BlackBerry Posts a For Sale Sign” or whatever variation you want. It’s evident that the media is entirely focused on the idea that BlackBerry is up for sale.
When a company puts out a press release saying that it is exploring strategic alternatives, most financial experts know that it’s usually code for “we’re for sale.” That’s absolutely true. And it’s also true that last May, when the company first announced its exploration of strategic alternatives it never said it was looking at an outright sale. Thorsten Heins said everything was on the table, but a sale was certainly not the priority. This time around, the possibility of a sale was clearly stated.
It’s evident that the media is entirely focused on the idea that BlackBerry is up for sale
But we shouldn’t forget that that the entire purpose of this strategic review is to accelerate the rollout of BlackBerry 10. The specific wording of their release is, “to explore strategic alternatives to enhance value and increase scale in order to accelerate BlackBerry 10 deployment.”
How to you accomplish a scale increase? I don’t think going private is the way to do it. Instead, it just takes shares from a diverse shareholder base and puts them in the hands of a few private owners. Unless such a deal had other synergies (i.e. Silver Lake somehow seeing value in a deal between Dell and BlackBerry, which has bee pointed out but isn’t at all logical to me), privatization doesn’t do anything to accelerate BB10.
This brings us to another major focus area of the media. Most articles have pointed to Prem Watsa’s resignation from the board as a sign that he intends to put together a bid to take BlackBerry private. And he may be planning to do exactly that. But the rest of the board may feel going private is not the right plan. It’s easy to print a headline connecting the dots, but that doesn’t mean we have solid evidence of privatization transaction.
Next up we have the Canadian Pension Plan. How many headlines have we seen saying that the CPP is interested in taking BlackBerry private? Too many. And every headline that says this is doing a horrible job of re-reporting on what Bloomberg said. From what I can gather, Bloomberg called up the CPP and the chief executive of the pension plan said, “It’s safe to say that any large deal in Canada or elsewhere is something that we would make sure we took a hard look at ... you could say that about any asset.”
Ringing endorsement of a privatization deal? Of course not. He’s providing an adequate answer to a journalist who was doing his job by calling to inquire about any potential interest. He never even said he’s aware of any go-private efforts.
Bloomberg has also said that JP Morgan and RBC have been quietly contacting potential buyers since May 2012 with no interest. So I can understand why people believer a privatization deal might take place. But I can also see how it’s more likely that BlackBerry form a JV or other strategic partnership instead of a full outright sale.
Who might they strike a deal with? I wish I knew. But I still feel like they aren’t going private and they are unlikely to be sold in one piece. As always, I reserve the right to be totally wrong.