BlackBerry Buyout Last Stand: Qualcomm M&A Unlikely

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BlackBerry Ltd. (NASDAQ: BBRY) faces its last stand as a public company, while three or four financiers and corporations prepare bids for assets that some analysts think are worth nothing. Stupidity has played a role in M&A transactions before, and if BlackBerry goes for anything close to its current market value, it will play a role again.

Fairfax Financial, which owns 10% of BlackBerry, has made a bid that it now has to prove can be financed. Any sane bank would shy away. The other possible bid could come from founders Mike Lazaridis and Doug Fregin, along with Cerberus Capital, which at one point owned Chrysler, and for some odd reason huge chip maker Qualcomm Inc. (NASDAQ: QCOM). It makes no sense that Qualcomm would own a smartphone company that competes, however ineffectively, with many of its customers. And Lazaridis and Fregin have ruined the company once. Why would anyone give them a chance to ruin it again?

Particularly significant is the list of companies that probably have looked at BlackBerry and rejected making a bid. Each one has expert staff, outside consultants and money to perform due diligence, even if it is without BlackBerry’s books and small details about its operations. These companies, based on rumors, include Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT), Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB), Samsung, Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) and Lenovo. None of them will be among the final bidders, if there are any. And that speaks volumes.

The ongoing mystery about a BlackBerry buyout is why it will happen at all. The company has valuable patents. However, an acquisition for that reason would mean a number of trips to courts around the world to defend those patents and collect licensing fees. It would be an expensive gamble. That means that BlackBerry’s messaging network and a data network that many customers do not want anymore are valuable assets.

The greatest hurdle to a BlackBerry transaction is the ability to understand if any outside company can catch the falling knife that is the company’s earnings and subscriber base. Revenue last quarter fell 49% from the previous quarter to $1.6 billion. Almost no one bought the new BlackBerry 10 series.

The final theory about a BlackBerry acquisition is that the company is worth something if it is broken into pieces. That presumes that some set of companies have the extraordinary ability to tease apart BlackBerry’s operations with great surgical skill, and without a single important mistake. It cannot be done, because no one is that good.