Home / Companies / News /  BlackBerry forms panel to explore sale options

New York: BlackBerry Ltd., the struggling Canadian smartphone maker, said its board has formed a special committee to explore strategic options and potentially sell itself.

Chief executive efficer (CEO) Thorsten Heins will join fellow board members Barbara Stymiest, Richard Lynch and Bert Nordberg and Timothy Dattels on the committee, the Waterloo, Ontario- based company said on Monday in a statement. Fairfax Financial CEO Prem Watsa, a director whose firm is BlackBerry’s largest shareholder, is stepping down from the board to avoid conflicts.

Given the importance and strength of our technology, and the evolving industry and competitive landscape, we believe that now is the right time to explore strategic alternatives, Dattels, who will serve as the committee’s chairman, said in the statement.

The announcement builds on a move last year when BlackBerry hired investment banks to advise the company on strategic alternatives. At the time, Heins said a sale wasn’t the main direction the company was considering.

Heins and the board are coming around to the idea that going private would give them the leeway to fix problems out of the public view, Reuters reported, citing unidentified sources. While there is a change of tone on the board, no deal is imminent, according to the story.

The company, which released its new BlackBerry 10 lineup this year in a bid to win back market share, has suffered from lackluster demand and a fizzling stock rally. Last month, the price of its Z10 flagship touch-screen model was cut to $49.99 amid sluggish sales. The phone had originally gone on sale in the US in March for $199.99 with a two-year contract.

The stock rose to $9.76 at the close in New York. Shares of the company have lost 18% this year.

Lisette Kwong, a spokeswoman for Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry, declined to comment to Bloomberg on the report.

Before Heins became CEO in January 2012, the company held talks with private-equity firm Silver Lake Management LLC about possibly going private, a person familiar with the discussions told Bloomberg News last year. The talks were preliminary and the two sides weren’t able to agree on a potential valuation, the person said.

Silver Lake has had no meetings with BlackBerry in the past year, a person familiar with past discussions said today.

Dell Buyout

Reuters said on Monday that BlackBerry has held recent discussions with Silver Lake about collaborating in enterprise computing, though the talks didn’t involve a buyout or other transaction, Reuters said.

Personal-computer maker Dell Inc. has spent this year pursuing a leveraged buyout with Silver Lake against opposition from billionaire financier Carl Icahn and other shareholders. Like BlackBerry, Dell has struggled to adapt to a slump in demand for its products amid soaring demand for devices made by Apple Inc.—in this case, iPad tablets rather than iPhones.

Last month, Heins reiterated that the company was seeking partners to expand the footprint of its BlackBerry 10 operating system and help with its turnaround.

We will do our homework and assess what we think is best for the company and then we will have discussions and they will either yield partnerships, alliances or not, Heins told shareholders in July at BlackBerry’s annual meeting in Waterloo. Bloomberg

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