With its stock at an all time low, the Ontario-based company has retained JP Morgan-Chase to help it evaluate its options
Sometimes I really hate it when I’m right. I really do…
Late last year, I pumped out a couple columns on why I thought 2012 was going to be a very, VERY difficult year for RIM. They’ve got a huge set of hurdles to overcome. With layoffs likely to happen at any time between now and the end of the year, employees who aren’t actively looking for new employment are likely setting themselves up for huge problems later on. When a company is tanking, its always better to leave earlier rather than later in my opinion.
Be that as it may, about a week ago, it was reported on Wall Street that RIM has retained JP Morgan-Chase to help it figure out what to do with itself. There’s really only one reason why RIM would hire an investment bank the likes of JP Morgan-Chase – they’re actively looking to shop the company, wanting to identify a buyer sooner rather than later while the company’s stock and assets still have value.
I saw an article on Seeking Alpha that identified three real world players to purchase all or part of RIM or its patent portfolio: Microsoft, Google or Apple. The article’s author, identified only as “kracken,” is correct. There are only three. Some people may wonder about companies like Nokia, Samsung, LG and HTC. The fit isn’t right there.
Nokia, Samsung, LG and HTC are handset makers that play in ecosystems created by Microsoft (Windows Phone), Google (Android) and Apple (iOS). For Nokia, Samsung and the rest to make a play for RIM would mean that they would be interested in throwing considerable capital behind the continuation and evolution of BB10/QNX, and the rest of RIM’s ecosystem, which includes the pitifully received Blackberry Playbook. Even though version 2.0 of the tablet’s OS was fairly well received, its highly unlikely to make an appearance ANYWHERE with any kind of impact that would make it worthwhile to have.
RIM currently has $2.1B in cash and over 78M known Blackberry users worldwide. However, only 20M of those are enterprise level users. With 58M consumer-based users that could jump off the RIM ecosystem for a more viable one in MS, Google or Apple, its clear where RIM’s current value currently lies – its patents.
With Google’s recent acquisition of Motorola Mobility recently completed, its unlikely that regulators would approve the additional acquisition of a set of patents that would likely, and most certainly, create a near total monopoly for Google in the mobility space.
Microsoft is perhaps the second most likely candidate in the list of three, some may think.. As a former, direct RIM opponent in the Push eMail space, it would be very ironic for MS to acquire the RIM Push mail patents (as well as others) when, during the 2002-2004 timeframe, if memory serves correctly, RIM brought litigation against Microsoft for the way Exchange ActiveSync pushed mail and notifications out to a connected device. MS had to change the way Exchange ActiveSync worked, much to the dislike of many. Acquiring the patent would certainly close the loop for MS is that story, but with Microsoft’s flat stock performance over the last 10 or so years, I’m not entirely certain what the acquisition would truly buy them other than a sense of vindication. They’ve already “won the war,” especially if they do, in fact, end up taking 20 or so percent of the mobile market by 2016, as predicted by some analysts. Apple and Google already license Exchange ActiveSync as the back end of both’s abilities to sync with Exchange Servers for mail services. There’s no reason for them to purchase patents for a competing push service when no one else is likely to use it.
From my perspective, the only reason why MS would buy them would be to kill them.
Come back next time, and I’ll finish up the analysis…