It may be obvious why Google is undoing its misguided Motorola purchase — the unit doesn’t fit with the rest of Google’s businesses and even clashes with its efforts to convince other companies to make Android phones and tablets. But there are some lingering questions around the deal.
Google bought Motorola for $12.5 billion and they’re selling it for $3 billion. THEY JUST LOST $9.5 BILLION!
Well, that’s what everyone on the Internet says. Not so fast. At the time of the acquisition, Motorola had no debt and $3 billion of cash on its balance sheet that Google got to keep. Google then sold off Moto’s cable set top box business to a private equity firm for $2.3 billion. And now they’re getting $3 billion from Lenovo. So they are really in hole for more like $4 billion.
And Google is keeping almost all of Motorola’s huge patent portfolio. Some patent lawyers say that’s worth $4 billion by itself. Not as bad as it seemed. On the other hand, Moto also racked up losses of about $2 billion under Google’s ownership. Not so good, either. Now that’s Lenovo’s problem…which leads to:
Is this a smart deal for Lenovo?
They’re paying $3 billion, less than Motorola’s annual revenue, for the chance to turn things around. Lenovo sold about 45 million smartphones (4th most in the world) last year but mostly in emerging markets like China, India, Russia and Indonesia, none in the US or Western Europe.
The idea is to combine Lenovo’s low-cost manufacturing ability with Motorola’s better known brand name in those high-end markets to increase sales — and profits. Google was always struggling to fix or cut off all the broken operations at Motorola, but Lenovo has a different option - it already builds electronics at a profit so it can shift to its more efficient factories. This is the exact same strategy it can take with IBM’s server business that it just agreed to buy for $2.3 billion. And what it did in 2005 when it bought IBM’s Thinkpad line of PC and laptops.
Where does this leave Blackberry?
There have been frequent rumors over the past year that Lenovo was considering buying Blackberry. Now that’s obviously off the table. Blackberry shares have done quite well this year, up 34%. If some investors were bidding up the stock hoping for a takeover we could see a bit of sell-off on the Google Lenovo deal. But I don’t think that’s likely. Including cash and debt, Blackberry is valued at just $3 billion, not much of a takeover premium. The stock recovery is more about hopes that new CEO John Chen can refocus the company on its strengths serving big corporations.
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