The stock has jumped more than 13% in the last three weeks, since the company announced the formation of a special board committee to evaluate “strategic options” [read: find a buyer]. However, the shares are still more than 20% below their level prior to the company’s disastrous earnings report on June 28. And that does not include the stock’s peak around the $18 mark in January before the formal launch of the new BlackBerry 10 handsets that have since been met with tepid demand.
The report late Wednesday from the Wall Street Journal – which said the company was working to speed up its sales process – has given the stock some juice. But while the timing may be entirely coincidental, it’s worth noting that this particular leak came just one day after the surprise acquisition of Nokia’s handset business by Microsoft – which effectively removed two potential partners from BlackBerry’s list.
Among those left, all face either notable business challenges of their own, a potentially hostile regulatory review or the lack of a compelling business to take on a smartphone maker whose fortunes have dimmed considerably. Among the usual suspects left are:
Apple: Plenty of money, but no real reason to do such a deal, the size of which would be way out of norm for a company that prefers to keep its acquisition activities small and quiet.
Samsung: Plenty of money, and possibly some interest in owning its own platform (despite its considerable investments in Android). Still, any foreign bidder for BlackBerry would likely face stringent review from regulators, given the Canadian government’s interest in the company’s future, as well as its considerable business supplying smartphones and services to the U.S. government.
Huawei: Plenty of money, but the Chinese handset maker seems to have taken itself out of the running, telling reporters on Wednesday that it prefers to grow its business on its own, according to Reuters. And, like Samsung, would likely face heavy political resistance.
HTC: Some money, but struggling with its own declining smartphone business. Swallowing an acquisition that could be in the neighborhood of $7 billion would be a tough call. Few analysts seem to consider HTC a likely bidder.
That leaves companies outside the handset space who may want in. Amazon , Dell and Hewlett-Packard could be included in this list, though each has its own strong reasons for passing on BlackBerry. And of course, the speculation above does not preclude the possibility of multiple companies taking on parts of the BlackBerry business, or a group of Canadian investors taking the company private. For the moment, investors seem to be hedging their bets.