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BlackBerry Go-Private Dreams, CrackBerry Needs a Lesson in Logic

Jon C. Ogg

The notion that BlackBerry Ltd. (BBRY) thinks it should, could, may, or even hope to go private is quite frankly nothing but hogwash. Shares were up over 7.5% at $9.93 in late Friday trading after a Reuters story quoted several sources familiar with the situation which also came with the "no comment from the company" admission. You have to know that 1) the company would not telegraph a sale and 2) drive up the price it would have to pay. Perhaps a more important issue is that BlackBerry would not want to cause any further risk or disruption to what has been a lackluster reintroduction of BB10 sales during the rise of the Apple iPhone and the rise of the Google Android system.

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CEO Thorsten Heins might think that running BlackBerry's turnaround as a private company would be easier. After all, upset shareholders would be a thing of the past. The company could also get away with not having to disclose total smartphone unit sales and have to publicly disclose its revenue and earnings (or losses) as often. With no substantial publicly issued bonds and debt instruments outstanding, Heins at least in theory could conduct his turnaround in secret. This is a situation where theory simply is not practical.

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Bloomberg has said that after talking to private equity and financing sources, such a move is not believed to be in the works. We would take it a step further and signal that getting money to take this company private would be very difficult. It might not even be possible. Even Bono would probably shy away from financing this, realizing that second double-dip in the smartphone business is silly.

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The real issue is finding who would want to finance a go-private acquisition of BlackBerry. A group such as Silver Lake would be interested in the patents and the technology, but these guys are smart enough to know that their investors and their management team does not want to lose money.

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BlackBerry's consensus estimates from Thomson Reuters project losses for the year-end (in February) for both 2014 and 2015. Sales are expected to be up 10% to almost $12.2 billion this year, but down about 12% to $10.75 billion next year. That will take BlackBerry sales down from its peak year sales of $19.9 billion back in fiscal-2011.

One last consideration here is logic of shareholder losses. BlackBerry's market cap is a mere $5.1 billion as of Friday after its gains. It doesn't matter that the 52-week trading range is $6.22 to $18.32. What matters is that when this was Research-in-Motion its peak value was almost $150 in 2008. Sure, you can argue about the great recession but the lows in March of 2009 were down at $35.00. Its stock recovered to $70 and $80 during the market recovery, but its slide was monumental.

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BlackBerry would be sued handily by shareholders if these losses became forced. Not only that, but it would be sued in the U.S. and also up in Canada where the company is based.

Maybe Thorsten Heins would like to run BlackBerry as a private company. Frankly, Heins can wish that go-private notion all he wants in one hand and simultaneously relieve himself in the other hand. Everyone on the planet should know which hand will fill up first.

Even if the company does somehow some way manage to get financing to make a go-private bid, we will be extremely vocal about it and would directly urge and encourage shareholders to fight it. Forcing losses of this magnitude on BlackBerry loyalists would be just as big of a crime as the company's delays and retools of its operating system that allowed Apple and Google to rise as much as they did.

A "takeunder" go-private acquisition at this stage in the game would be about as infuriating to shareholders as the Bear Stearns buyout terms from JPMorgan.

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