BlackBerry, which pioneered on-your-hip email with its first smartphones and email pagers, said that it had set up a committee to review its options and that top shareholder Prem Watsa was stepping down from its board due to a possible conflict of interest.
BlackBerry, once a stock market darling, has bled market share to the likes of Apple Inc and phones using Google Inc’s Android operating system, and its new BlackBerry 10 smartphones have failed to gain traction with consumers.
BlackBerry shares were up 5% at C$10.57 near midday on the Toronto StockExchange but remained well below the levels seen in June, before the company reported dismal results that included poor sales of the BlackBerry 10 phones it views as key to a successful turnaround.
Analysts expressed scepticism about the new committee, noting that Blackberry announced similar steps more than a year ago when it hired JPMorgan and RBC as financial advisers.
As well as the smartphones that bear its name, BlackBerry has a valuable collection of patents, a well-regarded service business that powers its security- focused messaging system, and cash and investments of C$3.1bn as of late June. The company is debt-free.
BlackBerry’s fate is likely to prompt questions from the Canadian government, which vets foreign takeovers of Canadian firms.
In the past the government has described BlackBerry as a Canadian crown jewel.
The government said yesterday that it would not comment on speculation about the company.