BlackBerry said on Monday that it is considering a range of options to put an end to its struggles, including putting itself up for sale.
BlackBerry will "explore strategic alternatives to enhance value and increase scale in order to accelerate BlackBerry 10 deployment," the company said in its announcement. "These alternatives could include, among others, possible joint ventures, strategic partnerships or alliances, a sale of the Company or other possible transactions."
The company's board of directors formed a "special committee" to weigh these options. The committee includes the majority of the board, namely Barbara Stymiest, Thorsten Heins (BlackBerry's CEO), Richard Lynch and Bert Nordberg, with the committee to be chaired by Timothy Dattels. Board member Prem Watsa, who is CEO of Fairfax Financial, the largest BlackBerry shareholder, decided to resign from BlackBerry "due to potential conflicts that may arise during the process." Fairfax "has no current intention of selling its shares."
BlackBerry's dominance in the smartphone world came to an end years ago with the rise of the iPhone and Android, and the company has struggled to expand its traditionally strong business in the corporate IT market.
IDC mobile analyst Francisco Jeronimo opined on Twitter that "BlackBerry's statement shows a lack of interest in the company. If there was any, they would be announcing a partnership/acquisition, not a sale." Nokia, he noted, "Secretly negotiated a strategic option with Microsoft and publicly announced a partnership. BlackBerry did the opposite."
BlackBerry trading on Nasdaq was halted today pending the announcement.
BlackBerry tried to put a positive spin on the possibility of selling the company. “During the past year, management and the Board have been focused on launching the BlackBerry 10 platform and BES 10 [BlackBerry Enterprise Service], establishing a strong financial position, and evaluating the best approach to delivering long-term value for customers and shareholders,” Dattels said in the announcement. “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.”
Heins said that "we will be continuing with our strategy of reducing cost, driving efficiency, and accelerating the deployment of BES 10, as well as driving adoption of BlackBerry 10 smartphones, launching the multi-platform BBM social messaging service, and pursuing mobile computing opportunities by leveraging the secure and reliable BlackBerry Global Data Network.”
BlackBerry lost $84 million in the most recent quarter, despite posting $3.1 billion in revenue, 15 percent higher than the previous quarter and up 9 percent year-over-year.
Some of BlackBerry's efforts to hold off Apple and Android have failed spectacularly, particularly the company's PlayBook tablet. However, its BlackBerry Z10 smartphone is an impressive device, and the company is trying to expand beyond its own customer base by bringing BBM to iOS and Android. Making BBM cross-platform expands on a move BlackBerry made nearly a couple of years ago to allow its mobile device management software to work with iOS and Android.
All things considered, though, BlackBerry doesn't seem poised to make a major comeback. A sale of the company would be a significant milestone given that BlackBerry practically invented the modern smartphone market, but it wouldn't be a surprising one.