BlackBerry Finds a Savior, Just in the Nick of Time

BlackBerry (NASDAQ: BBRY  ) has given up on its turnaround plans. The final exit play is in place, but the company is battling to even make it that far.

The Canadian smartphone veteran just pre-announced its second-quarter results, and I really can't find a silver lining to these thunderhead clouds.

  • $1.6 billion in expected revenue is 62% below the year-ago period's $4.2 billion.
  • Last year, BlackBerry reported positive GAAP earnings of $329 million, or $0.63 per share. This time, it's a $1 billion GAAP net loss if you include a $950 million writedown of unsold smartphone inventory.
  • Handsets shipped plunged from 10.6 million units to 3.7 million. Most of these are aging BlackBerry 7 devices, not the supposedly revolutionary BB10 lineup. The company is selling through outdated reserves much faster than it ships new handsets to its distributors.

In other words, BlackBerry can't find a market for its newer and more profitable devices. Its lower-end handsets still have their fans, but BB10 lacks the scale that would bring app developers and end users to the platform.

So the company is taking some drastic measures to stay alive. BlackBerry will cut another 4,500 jobs and slash operating expenses by 50% in the next five quarters. Consumer-facing operations will soon be a faint memory as the company refocuses exclusively on enterprise sales. And of course, the company is still up for sale -- with a solid offer on the table.

A consortium led by BlackBerry's largest shareholder, Canadian insurance giant Fairfax Financial, just placed a bid for BlackBerry totaling $9 per share (U.S., not Canadian). That's just pennies above last Friday's closing price and well below the $10.22 average share price over the last three months. Against the flagging fundamental background, BlackBerry investors should thank their lucky stars to get any buyout offers at all.

Apple started killing BlackBerry years ago when the first iPhone made the CrackBerry craze seem obsolete overnight. The Canadians aren't even battling Apple anymore, since the real battleground is located in the low-cost market, where Cupertino wouldn't be caught dead. But Google and its myriad Android partners have taken Apple's baton and will beat BlackBerry to death with it.

It's not like BlackBerry posed much of a threat to Apple and Android recently, but this final turn of events removes the last shadow of a smartphone danger altogether. With or without Fairfax by its side, BlackBerry gave up on the consumer-centric market where Cupertino and Google make their mobile living, so they are free to carve up the tiny BlackBerry market any way they want to.

BlackBerry's only hope now is that smartphones and tablets themselves become old hat, and that the company latches on to The Next Big Thing before Google and Apple do. That's not a terribly likely outcome, but a heavy-handed restructuring plus that opportunistic buyout offer at least gives BlackBerry a chance to see the next era dawning.

But that won't help its shareholders much. The BlackBerry saga ends here, for all investable purposes.

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