Full disclosure: I'm a self-admitted Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) bear. I won't hide it. But there are still RIM bulls out there who see something in the BlackBerry maker worth buying into. There are certainly some bright spots within the company, some that have even prevented me from taking an outright short position myself.
Here are three potential reasons to buy Research In Motion.
1. Sum of its parts
Taking a sum-of-its-parts approach is probably the most compelling reason. Even though the company continues to see BlackBerry shipments fall precipitously and hemorrhage market share, there is still value left in the company. Deep value hunters have already taken note, as RIM now trades at just 0.4 times book value.
At $7 per share, it carries a market cap of roughly $3.6 billion. On the asset side of its balance sheet, the company is valuing its net intangible assets at $3.4 billion alone. The recent frenzy over patents, particularly those of the mobile flavor, could see larger rivals swoop in to beef up their own battle chests. After all, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) just dropped a pretty penny buying Motorola primarily for its IP. A bidding war could also drive the price up.
On the other hand, if RIM's IP valuations are too high, there could be some downside. There's no more goodwill left to impair at this point, since RIM ate all of it last quarter, bringing its carrying balance down to zero.
RIM also has a network and services infrastructure for its large base of BlackBerry users. Its secure email is popular among enterprise and government customers and wouldn't have too much trouble finding a buyer. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) comes to mind here, as it could buy it and integrate it into its own Exchange enterprise email offerings.
Even as the BlackBerry business weakens, the patent portfolio and services business could potentially be worth more than RIM's current market cap. For example, Canaccord Genuity analyst Michael Walkley values those two parts combined at $4.25 billion. Walkley assigns a zero value to RIM's handset business and cash balance, since the former will consume the latter.
If RIM is sold intact or in pieces, it could be worth more than it is today.
2. User base
RIM's user base sits at all-time highs, totaling 78 million. These are paying subscribers who are fairly loyal to their BlackBerry devices and are eagerly awaiting the next-generation operating system, BlackBerry 10.
If RIM is to engineer a legitimate turnaround (and that's a big "if"), it will be done by leveraging and appealing to this user base. This is one area where RIM hasn't seen meaningful declines, which is a positive sign. In fact, it has continued to grow this base consistently for years. Growth has admittedly slowed in recent times, adding just 1 million users last quarter, but at least it's not negative.
Licensing BlackBerry 10 could be another alternative.
Not many areas of RIM's business are on an upward trajectory, but this is one of them.
It's common knowledge that RIM isn't faring very well in the North American market, as Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) and Google run amok. RIM remains popular in emerging markets where BlackBerrys are more affordable.
International sales comprise the vast majority of sales -- 75% last quarter. The company's broader "other" segment was 63% of sales. Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. chalked up the rest of revenue. The other segment did post a significant decrease last quarter, though, falling 36% to $1.8 billion, but it has still done well over the past three full fiscal years. The segment saw revenues of $4 billion, $8.5 billion, and $11.1 billion in fiscal 2010, 2011, and 2012, respectively.
If RIM were to concede the U.S. market to Apple and Google, where BlackBerrys have clearly lost consumer mind share and focus on its more important international segments, it could regroup and fortify.
Still a bear
I still think the odds of a legitimate turnaround are unrealistic. Yet even amid my bearishness, there are still some reasons one might buy RIM. The best bet is a deep value play banking on a selloff of RIM either whole or in pieces, in which case the sale price could very well generate a decent return from current prices.
Much of RIM's fall from grace can be tied back to Apple, and the iPhone maker still has room to run. The Motley Fool has just launched a brand new premium Apple research service catered specifically to current or prospective Apple investors. For some relatively safer picks that aren't likely to see the same gut-wrenching drops that RIM has had over the past few years, consider these three Dow dividend stocks with sustainable business and cash flows. This report is totally free.