Is This BlackBerry’s Future?

There's no disputing that BlackBerry (NASDAQ: BBRY  ) has had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year with shares down nearly 50% year to date. The year began on a high note with optimism carried over from 2012 concerning its newest BlackBerry 10 smartphones. However, optimism quickly descended into pessimism with perennial delays and, eventually, lackluster sales figures.

Pessimism, in turn, quickly turned to outright despair once BlackBerry reported its quarterly figures which showed the company lost nearly $1 billion during its second quarter. Once again, a beacon of optimism peeked through in the form of a go-private offer from Fairfax Financial for $9/share. But, as it always seems in this company's recent history, this offer fell through, exposing the company as an empty vessel, essentially a rudderless company with no competitive advantages and apparently no idea of how to attain them.

As BlackBerry bulls are quick to point out, the breakup value of BlackBerry appears to be more than the current market capitalization. An oft-quoted figure during August was $8.5 billion, more than 150% higher than its current market capitalization of $3.1 billion. Of course, this figure may be slightly stale due to time and BlackBerry's ongoing cash burn, but the general principle of BlackBerry being broken down into its constituent businesses to extract value isn't a novel idea. However, it now appears that BlackBerry has gotten the memo and may be looking to tweak its business model to monetize valuable assets.

What is BlackBerry doing?
BlackBerry recently made news by striking a deal with LG to pre-install BlackBerry messenger on select LG smartphones. According to 9to5Google, the first phone to feature BlackBerry's messenger pre-installed will be the LG G Pro Lite. This is significant, but not new; BlackBerry messenger is already available on both Google's Android store and Apple's iOS App store. However, this appears to be the first instance that BBM is preloaded on a non-native BlackBerry phone. In essence, if you can't bring users into your ecosystem to extract value, you take your apps to ecosystems that do have significant users.

This is important to BlackBerry, in the event they can properly monetize BBM then they could have a revenue catalyst on their hands. According to Analyst Gus Papageorgiou: "In the near term we believe BBM could likely generate around $300-million/year in mobile ad revenue, similar to where we believe Twitter is."

Is this BlackBerry's saving grace?
In a word, no. For the three months ended August 31, BlackBerry reported revenue of $770 million from hardware – BlackBerry phones. Or, 250% of the full-year total predicted for BlackBerry messenger. Even worse, that $770 million was almost $1 billion lower than its year-over-year comparison. And that's the point -- BlackBerry is still a hardware and phone company, a business they can no longer compete in. However, watching BlackBerry try to more effectively monetize its assets has to be slightly encouraging for perma-BlackBerry-bulls. 2013 was a year that BlackBerry investors would rather forget; perhaps management can reverse that with a concentrated strategy of monetizing valuable assets.

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