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Cerberus investment fund eyes BlackBerry bid: source


The big investment group is preparing to sign a confidential agreement to examine BlackBerry’s finances for a possible offer to a USD 4.7 billion

Blackberry-LogoNew York: The private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management is interested in a bid for troubled Canadian smartphone maker BlackBerry, a source familiar with the matter has said.

The source indicated that the big investment group was preparing to sign a confidentiality agreement to examine BlackBerry’s finances for a possible counter-offer to a USD 4.7 billion buyout plan agreed last month. BlackBerry said on September 23 that it signed a letter of intent for the buyout, which translates to USD 9 a share, led by Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited.

The deal is subject to due diligence by Fairfax and allows BlackBerry to consider other offers. Fairfax, a Canadian firm headed by billionaire Prem Watsa, is already BlackBerry’s largest shareholder with approximately 10 per cent of its shares. Watsa resigned from BlackBerry’s board in August when it announced a search for a suitor.

Some analysts have said they do not believe the Fairfax buyout will take place, and that it was done to elicit other offers. BlackBerry shares have been trading below the Fairfax offer of USD 9, and yesterday edged up slightly to close at USD 7.96. An analysis released yesterday by the research firm Trefis said that however the BlackBerry is worth the USD 4.7 billion offered by Fairfax, when adding up the value of its services, hardware and software operations and cash on hand.

BlackBerry had some USD 2.6 billion in cash at the end of the past quarter. New York-based Cerberus, which specializes in distressed companies, manages some USD 20 billion in assets, according to its website.

While BlackBerry helped create a culture of mobile users glued to smart phones, many have since moved to iPhones or devices using Google’s Android software.

According to International Data Corporation, BlackBerry’s global market share had slipped to 3.7 per cent in the second quarter, the lowest since tracking began. Android accounts for nearly 80 per cent.

A survey by Kantar Worldpanel ComTech said BlackBerry captured just 2.4 per cent of sales across the big five European markets and 1.8 percent in the United States in the three months ending in August.

The company, formerly known as Research In Motion, unveiled a new corporate name and a new platform in January as it sought to regain momentum, but its most recent numbers suggest this has been a spectacular failure.


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