If you’ve been are a shareholder of BlackBerry over the past few years it’s mostly been painful. But if you’ve held the shares over the last month it’s been very rewarding. BlackBerry bottomed out below $6 in December and is now rallied about 50% to almost $9 (USD) today.
The big move started when John Chen quarterbacked the latest earnings call. I posted my thoughts on that already, so I won’t rehash it here. But suffice to say the momentum has continued despite no real change in the financial picture and no important company news of any kind really.
Following last quarter’s conference call I wrote, “Betting on the stock is a bet on the company’s ability to stem the losses on hardware while building up new revenue in the enterprise business. If you’re convinced they can succeed, you should probably buy the stock (and you get any potential BBM upside for free at this point). Otherwise stay away.”
I believe my comment was accurate and what we’ve seen happen is indeed a series of bets by investors on the company’s future as an enterprise software & services play. In a nutshell, more people have become John Chen believers. We have to get past the painful history of BlackBerry pretty much losing out in the hardware market. That’s over, and if they are to ever build up a strong BlackBerry 10 ecosystem it’s going to take years, and will only happen after they stabilize and grow the business via other means.
I know it sounds like a big deal to say the stock is up 50%, but it’s really par for the course in the volatile land of technology investing - especially if the story is one of life or death as it has been in the case of BlackBerry. The stock is up 50%, but the market value is only up about $1.5 billion. To put this in perspective, BlackBerry’s trailing 12 month sales are over $8 billion, but they’ve been on the decline. If we annualize last quarter’s sales then the company is doing a run rate of about $4.8 billion. Most profitable software companies trade at a multiple several times that of sales. So if BlackBerry can get back to being profitable (even at a lower revenue figure), it should end up with a market value much higher than it has today.
Simply put, the stock has moved a lot in percentage terms but it’s still a case where I think it’s either going much higher (over the course of the next 2 years) while it simultaneously faces risks that could push it much closer to zero.
Owning the stock today is still a bet on the transition of BlackBerry as an almost pure-play in enterprise software and services, with free upside on BBM, which I think gets no value in the market right now.