News that Toronto-based Fairfax Financial wants to offer BlackBerry Ltd. shareholders US$9 a share to take the company private have been met with mixed reactions.
Fairfax has a good track record for saving financially-troubled companies, but it doesn’t bring any technology experience to the handset maker – unlike, for example, Silver Lake Partners, a private equity firm which has had investments in a who’s who of U.S. tech companies including Avaya Inc. and Skype.
Now there’s word that BlackBerry has made pitches to a number of tech giants – including Intel Corp., Cisco Systems Inc., Google Inc., SAP and Asian handset makers Samsung Electronics and LG – about selling all or parts of itself to them.
The report came from Reuters over the weekend.
However, carefully reading the story there’s no indication that the companies approached have made any replies.
As part of its survival strategy, BlackBerry would certainly be making pitches to anyone in related industries who could see value in its assets, including its secure network and industrial-strength operating system.
The Fairfax initial proposal – and it isn’t a firm offer until it completes a close look at BlackBerry’s books – doesn’t preclude the Canadian company from searching for alternate buyers.
However, BlackBerry would have to pay Fairfax a penalty if it clichés an alternate deal.
Separately, BlackBerry announced Monday a multi-platform cloud-based mobility management solution will debut next month. Like the on-premise BlackBerry Enterprise Services, it will allow IT administrators to activate and deploy BlackBerry, Apple iOS and Android devices, as well as provide application management, security policy configuration and compliance monitoring.
Admins will also be able to build a catalog of public apps from BlackBerry World, the Apple App Store and Google Play.
No pricing was announced, but BlackBerry said there will be a single monthly subscription that covers the licence and technical support.
Pete Devenyi, BlackBerry’s senior vice-president for enterprise software, said in an interview that the cloud service is not a substitute for the tight security of BES 10 in an on-premise server. While the cloud service will offer “the highest possible security that one can achieve in a cloud-based solution.”
In any cloud offering “you use the security that’s built into the Internet protocols for end to end security,” he said.
For those who want “the utmost in security” they should buy BES 10, and either use BlackBerry handsets or, if using Android or Apple devices, add the company’s SecureWorkspace option, Devenyi said.
But because the goal is to get a mobile management solution running in minutes “it will be particularly interesting to smaller company, medium-sized companies that really want to move their management platform into the cloud at a cost-effective price.”