Why BlackBerry Will Be Sold for Less Than $9 a Share

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Prospective buyers have not exactly been lining up to challenge the $9 per share offer to take smartphone maker BlackBerry Ltd. (NASDAQ: BBRY) private. The offer, from Fairfax Financial Holdings, which owns 10% of BlackBerry, originally might have been viewed as a stalking horse bid for the phone maker, but it is conceivable that we are looking at what could be a high bid.

Current shareholders certainly appear to think so. Shares are trading at around $8.58 late Tuesday morning, a clear indication that investors doubt that the $9 bid will hold up. Fairfax chairman Prem Watsa was also chairman of BlackBerry’s board until he resigned after the company said it would explore strategic alternatives, including a sale of the company. Watsa is believed to be putting together financing for the offer with the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch and BMO Capital Markets.

Watsa and his financiers have until November 4 to conduct due diligence, and a lot could happen during these next five weeks. Or, more likely, nothing will happen. No other bids could be forthcoming, the share price could continue to slide, or the financial players could decide to just walk away.

None of that is too difficult to imagine. Especially because there does not appear to be any reason to value BlackBerry at $4.7 billion. The company’s value now lies almost entirely with its intellectual property. The phones are not selling, and the new Z30 touchscreen phone is not going to change that. Buyers will stay away in droves, proving once again the truth expounded by the sage of New York, Yogi Berra: “If people aren’t going to come to the ballpark, you can’t stop them.”

BlackBerry’s shares are trading down about 2.7% to $8.58 before noon, in a 52-week range of $6.25 to $18.32.

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