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Three-headed hellhound ready to bite at BlackBerry

Cerberus Capital Management is sniffing around what's left of BackBerry and is seeking to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) that will grant it full access to the horrors lurking within the smartphone manufacturer's books. It'll make nasty reading.

As is par for the course BlackBerry apparatchiks are refusing to comment but truth will out and while the company has finally given up blowing its own trumpet (the same old tune and all that) it can't avoid making the required filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

The latest of these dismal documents shows that BlackBerry is to take another $400 million hit in charges all the way through to the end of its current fiscal year which ends in mid-2014. That is quadruple what the company forecast back in July. Somebody needs to give Thorsten Heins's crystal ball a wipe over with a damp cloth. Then he might be able to see the future with a tad more accuracy.

Remember it was only last week that BlackBerry posted a $934 million hit. The $400 million is in addition to that.

According to the SEC filing BlackBerry is now placing the blame for its collapse on global market conditions, "including in international markets where the company has historically experienced rapid growth."

And, of course, there is no mention of mismanagement, money-wasting, the delays in producing and then the slow delivery of software and handsets that had passed their sell-by date before the hit retailer shelves. Nor are any other reasons cited to explain why BlackBerry is in such a parlous state.

The truth of the matter is that in Q2 there was no growth at all (zero, zip, nada, nil) in any of the markets anywhere on the planet where BlackBerry operates. Fortunes and revenues were relentlessly down: down 38 per cent in MEA, down 30.3 per cent in North America, down 18.2 per cent in Latin America and down 13.5 in the Asia Pacific. There's a message there.

Blackberry's response? To re-organise, consolidate and streamline - yet again. Well, streamlining is better than flatlining but how on earth does BlackBerry think it can claw it's way back up from the pit at the bottom of which sits Cerberus, chops adrool, as it waits to chew the arse off the sad remains of a once great company? Cutting the number of models in its handset portfolio ain't going to do it, that's for sure.

Fairfax Financial Holdings, (which, it is said, has BlackBerry co-founder and sometime CEO, MIke Lazaridis, as one of its members) has offered to acquire BlackBerry at $9 a share but analysts are saying the price is too high as BlackBerry shares have fallen to less than $8 since the acquisition offer was made.

Enter Cerberus. If it does make an offer it is certain to be less than the nine bucks on the table from Fairfax and, as the Fairfax offer lapses in November, pundits are opining that it could offer as little as $7 a share in a few weeks time.

Either way, it's an odds-on bet that, whoever buys the rump of BlackBerry, it will be asset stripped and its patents portfolio sold the the highest bidder.

By the way, Cerberus is the original 'hellhound; a three-headed dog of ancient Greek and Roman mythology. His job was to guard the gates of Hades and to prevent anyone who had crossed the River Styx with Charon, the ferryman to the Underworld, from attempting to re-cross the river and return to life.

How splendidly ironic the consortium's name is - given that BlackBerry is more walking dead than walking wounded.

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