If troubled BlackBerry ever manages to find itself a buyer – and that’s by no means guaranteed – it could well be sooner than anyone thought. Not even thirty days after the struggling smartphone maker announced that it was officially putting itself up for sale, the Canadian firm says there are a number of potential buyers who could wrap up a deal before the end of November.
BlackBerry only announced that it was looking for a buyer last month, when it stated that it was seeking “strategic alternatives to enhance value and increase sale in order to accelerate BlackBerry 10 deployment”. Those alternatives alluded to either an outright sale of the company, strategic partnerships, or “other possible transactions”, an admission that its open to pretty much any deal that might be able to save the firm from ruin. Now, a special committee of board members says that its identified a number of potential bidders, and will push for a “quick resolution to the sales process.”
It’s no coincidence that the news, which was reported by the Wall Street Journal, comes less than 48 hours after Microsoft tied up its on deal to take over Nokia’s mobile phone business. The software giant was seen as one of the likeliest bidders to take over BlackBerry, but now it’s almost certainly out of the picture it would seem the Canadian firm’s options are a lot more limited – hence the expected quick sale.
To be honest BlackBerry was never that enticing an opportunity for Microsoft when compared with Nokia. Despite all of the criticism leveled at it, Windows Phone has at least been growing in popularity, with Q2 sales rising to 8.7 million units from just 4.9 million in Q1. As the WSJ points out, that’s a stunning 77.6% increase in sales, and now with Nokia well and truly under its thumb Microsoft should easily be able to solidify Windows Phone as the No.3 mobile OS. On the other hand, Blackberry continues to bleed users, with disappointing sales of its new Z10 and Q10 only bringing more doom and gloom to the company. In total, BlackBerry sold just 2.7 million handsets in Q2, with its newest BB10 devices accounting for just 40% of those sales – meaning the majority of its bankroll is still coming from its cheaper, older devices.
BlackBerry is barely even treading water these days, and that begs the question who on earth would want to buy it? Just because the company has thrown itself at the mercy of buyers doesn’t mean anyone will actually step up and save it.
With Microsoft out of the hunt its unclear who these “potential bidders” are, though the WSJ says that “some Asian tech companies” have shown an interest. If true, this suggests that PC maker Lenovo might well be considering a move for the firm. The Chinese company’s CEO Yang Yuanqing said in an interview last March that a bid for the company “could make sense”, causing BlackBerry’s shares to briefly rise by 14%. However, Lenovo and BlackBerry both moved quickly to clarify Yang’s comments, saying that these were taken out of context and that the CEO was merely speaking “broadly” about future possibilities.
Given Lenovo’s mobile ambitions, a deal for BlackBerry could be an incredibly smart move. Lenovo has already demonstrated its ability to take on established players like Samsung and Apple in its home country China, where the strength of its brand and distribution network have helped it grab second place in smartphone sales. Now, Lenovo wants to do the same in western markets, and this is where BlackBerry can help it out – its distribution network and awareness of the BlackBerry brand are far greater than Lenovo’s, and it still enjoys considerable popularity with business users in particular.
Nevertheless, it’s not certain that Lenovo or anyone else would want to buy the company lock, stock and barrel. Some of its most coveted assets include BBM, the popular instant messenger service that’s set to land on Android and iOS soon, and also its enterprise security system – which could both prove to be tempting to different buyers.