D-Day for BlackBerry, will there be a last minute bid?

Nov 4, 2013

Could it get any worse for BlackBerry? Just when its management team were coming to terms with the relatively paltry $4.7bn rescue deal from Fairfax Financial Holdings (the company’s largest shareholder with a 10 per cent stake), news emerges that Fairfax might now be struggling to raise the funds, putting the whole deal in jeopardy. Today is not only the deadline for Fairfax to negotiate a definitive agreement, but also the deadline for alternative offers.

Reuters is reporting that Fairfax is struggling to raise financing for its bid, which values the company at $9 per share, with several large banks apparently concerned that even with the rescue money BlackBerry will not be able to halt its downward spiral. The Fairfax bid is being organised in conjunction with Bank of America Merrill Lynch and BMO Capital Markets .Whether these two financial heavyweights can fund the deal themselves, without having to rely on a syndicate of investors, is questionable.

The Wall Street Journal believes that Qualcomm is in talks to join a group led by Cerberus Capital Management that may submit an eleventh hour bid. The group also apparently includes BlackBerry founders Mike Lazaridis and Doug Fregin, who had gone on record last month to make their interest known, going so far as to hire Goldman Sachs and Centerview Partners to help them evaluate their options. Qualcomm sold its 3G-based cdmaOne and cdma2000 phone business to Kyocera in 2000.

BlackBerry is also apparently in discussions with several tech companies about a deal, and Reuters says it has already held talks with Cisco, Google, SAP (who have since ruled out a deal), Lenovo, Samsung, LG and Intel. Facebook is the latest company rumoured to be involved in talks.

“No one has really committed themselves to any group because none of the people that have been circling around BlackBerry have come up with a very convincing business plan,” said Leo de Bever, head of the Alberta Investment Management – one of Canada’a major pension funds.

BlackBerry reported a quarterly loss of nearly $1bn in September, and it is widely believed by analysts that it will burn through between $1bn and $2bn of its cash reserves next year. The company also has sizable off-balance-sheet commitments to suppliers, with $3.1bn due to be paid in less than 12 months.

“Press news of engagement with multiple tech companies in search of an ‘expression of interest’ makes us question the level of confidence BlackBerry may have in executing an attractive offer with Fairfax,” wrote FBR Capital analyst Scott Thompson, as reported on Barrons. “Given the high levels of uncertainty as the Fairfax deadline quickly approaches, we believe BlackBerry shares may soon lose their floor and trade at levels closer to what we believe to be the company’s true fundamental value of about $5 per share.”

Within the next few hours we’ll find out what exactly happened on BlackBerry’s D-Day.

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