Is the new (and improved?) BlackBerry ready to deals again?

Contact: Brenon Daly

After a sale process that was equal parts aspirational and delusional, BlackBerry has wrapped up its review of ‘strategic alternatives’ with a bit more money and a few new executives. It’s highly unlikely that combination – however well-intentioned – will do much to change the immediate trajectory at the Canadian company. A paltry 2% of customers who plan to buy a cell phone before the end of the year intend to pick up a BlackBerry, according to a September survey by ChangeWave Research, a service of 451 Research.

And candidly, there’s probably not much that can be done to change the final outcome at BlackBerry, which appears to be set for a long, slow grind toward oblivion. That’s at least one conclusion we would draw from the fact that all of the would-be buyers for the company passed on it. Even the kind-of/sort-of ‘stalking horse’ bid trotted off, with Fairfax Financial opting to limit its exposure to its largest holding by investing $1bn in BlackBerry rather than acquiring the whole thing.

One area where we may well see a change at BlackBerry, however, is in M&A. Understandably, the company hasn’t been a buyer as it has been trying to sell itself. The company hasn’t done an acquisition since March 2012, back when it was still known under its original name, Research in Motion.

But with BlackBerry getting a few more coins in its treasury from Fairfax, and an incoming CEO who has done some valuable acquisitions in the past, it could look to go shopping once again. (Don’t forget that BlackBerry’s new CEO, John Chen, picked up a handful of mobile technology companies when he was running fading database company Sybase. The mobile offerings were the primary asset that SAP wanted at Sybase when it paid $5.8bn for it back in 2010. At the time, SAP applications didn’t even run on the core Sybase database.)

Already the rumor-mill has been churning on a potential acquisition for BlackBerry: OpenPeak. Although all the upheaval at BlackBerry would appear to make any acquisition right now unlikely, this pairing would actually make a bit of sense. OpenPeak built BlackBerry’s Secure Work Space for iOS and Android, which was released in summer. The offering plays to the (sole) remaining strength at BlackBerry – mobile security and data management for IT departments – at the same time acknowledging that the overwhelming majority of devices coming into the enterprise are not BlackBerry-powered. Owning OpenPeak could advance both of those initiatives at BlackBerry.