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BlackBerry Shares Flounder Again After Run Up

Douglas A. McIntyre

Some company is supposed to buy BlackBerry Ltd. (BBRY), or at least that is what its board appears to believe. The way the smartphone corporation's stock trades tells otherwise. After a sharp run-up today that pushed shares to $12.19 on the 13th of the month, which was 8% above the previous day's close, they quickly settled to $10.93 at at the end of the day -- only 1% higher.

It might be that large investors decided to take profits after BlackBerry said it would look at "strategic options" or perhaps a sale. The stock traded around $9.25 for several days before the disclosure. However, there is one hint that Wall Street never liked the chances that BlackBerry would go for a huge premium. Even with the possibility of a buyout, BlackBerry trades way below its 52-week high of $18.42.

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It is often useful not to look beyond the obvious. The reasons BlackBerry shares cannot rally are twofold. The first is that a firm that had 50% of the smartphone market in early 2009 has less than 5% now. The second is that it cannot get the market share back.

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The "getting it back" is the more serious of the two problems. A premium price for BlackBerry shares would mean that a buyer thinks market share drop is reversible. The history of the smartphone industry tells otherwise. It is nearly impossible to make the argument that the vice grip Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Samsung have on the sector will loosen. Even, if it did, slightly, there is an army of smaller companies like HTC, LG and Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Motorola prepared to risk hundreds of millions of dollars in sum rather than be swept out of one of the hottest consumer electronics markets of the past several decades.

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The most preposterous theory about BlackBerry's future is that another extremely weak competitor would pay a premium to add BlackBerry's less than 5% share of market to its own. Most often mentioned as part of this set are Nokia Corp. (NOK) and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT). The management of each has made enough missteps in the sector to be wary of making one that could end their employments.

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BlackBerry today traded as if there the company has no buyers, which is the way it should trade.

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