EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

World/National News

November 4, 2013

BlackBerry drops bid to sell itself

(Continued)

Shares of BlackBerry plunged 16.4 percent to $6.50 on the Nasdaq yesterday.

Chen said he’ll be looking for a CEO with a strong software and services background. He noted that BlackBerry Messenger, the popular messaging application, has been downloaded by over 20 million users since it became available on Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS platforms.

“I’d like to find somebody to help me monetize that,” Chen told the AP.

Chen said a solid team is in place, but its members need to focus.

“Maybe I can help that,’’ Chen said. “More of a transitional thinking of we’re really not in phones but we’re in phones for software, for services.’’

Chen’s emphasis on software could mean the company might ultimately get out of selling smartphones.

Chen also said he wants to focus on business users.

Watsa praised Chen’s work turning around Sybase, an enterprise software data management company. Chen was chairman and CEO from 1998 until the company was acquired in 2010 by SAP AG.

“He joined in 1998 and the company was going through similar problems, the stock price was down 90 percent, four years of losses, John joined them and had one of the best track records that I have seen,” Watsa said.

Watsa said he remains a fan of Heins.

“I think Thorsten did a terrific job given the hand he had been dealt,” he said.

BGC analyst Colin Gillis said the failure to complete a successful sale was not an unexpected outcome for the market because the stock was trading well below the possible $9 bid price.

“They never had any money beyond the Fairfax money,” Gillis said. “It’s an under $5 billion market cap company with $2 billion in cash, you put up $1 billion and you couldn’t get the rest?”

The BlackBerry, pioneered in 1999, had been the dominant smartphone for on-the-go business people and other consumers before Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007 and showed that phones can handle much more than email and phone calls. In the years since, BlackBerry Ltd. been hammered by competition from the iPhone as well as Android-based rivals.

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