Down but not out as BlackBerry looks to go private in Fairfax deal

Along with the other big news from Microsoft today, troubled smartphone company BlackBerry was snapped up by Fairfax Financial—or at least they have signed a letter of intent to do so. That means any dreams (or nightmare) of a Microsoft acquisition can be put to rest.

We won’t go too deep into the news, as we have a sister site called CrackBerry for that, but for now we’ll just summarize what it all means.

  • BlackBerry will be going private, much like Dell did recently
  • Immediate plans do not seem to affect the BlackBerry lineup, including the release of the Z30
  • Other companies could still make offers to purchase BlackBerry, including Microsoft, though it seems very unlikely
  • The deal is good in the sense that BlackBerry won’t be sold for parts, at least not immediately. Also the pressure from the stock market and analysts will be alleviated
  • The deal is bad because there is no immediate cash infusion or synergy coming from a merger with another tech company; stockholders are also getting a bad deal due to the low purchase price

Basically, if this agreement goes through, BlackBerry will go behind the curtain. Financial numbers and quarterly results will be a thing of the past and the company can focus on staging a comeback (however unlikely that may be).

It’s still not clear what Fairfax’s long term intent and goals are for the company, but previous acquisitions by them usually result in a “business as usual” environment, save for some restructuring (including perhaps more layoffs).

Speaking of layoffs, last Friday BlackBerry announced a nearly $1 billion loss and the cutting of 4,500 jobs (or about 40% of their work force)—so things were very dire for them.

For Microsoft, not much has changed. For all intents and purposes, BlackBerry was defanged months ago and clearly the momentum is with Windows Phone these days. While BlackBerry could be a niche player in the enterprise market, they have a lot of work left ahead of them.

Mobile Nations financial analyst Chris Umiastowski has written an excellent post at CrackBerry on what it all means. His conclusion:

“I didn’t think a go-private transaction would happen. I felt (and still feel) that going private won’t help this company execute on its strategy any better than being public would. It’s not like they’re getting a big injection of cash, and if they want to do this they should have done it 2 or 3 years ago.That said, I recognize that going private doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t make things worse at all.”

In other words, for BlackBerry everything has changed and nothing has changed. 

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central. He is also the head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007, when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and watches. He has been reviewing laptops since 2015 and is particularly fond of 2-in-1 convertibles, ARM processors, new form factors, and thin-and-light PCs. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.