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Don't Gamble on BlackBerry's Fading Turnaround Hopes

For the past several years, BlackBerry (NASDAQ: BBRY  ) and its investors pinned their hopes on the company's rumored turnaround. There were a few possible catalysts for this, including new products, the value of its patents, or a possible takeover. Unfortunately, none of these have resulted in a turnaround, and all the while, BlackBerry's market positioning has continued to erode. BlackBerry is still reporting massive losses and declines in sales and profits, and its turnaround prospects are dwindling.

BlackBerry shares have lost a great deal of value over the past couple of years, which may lure investors hoping for outsized capital gains. But that will only happen if the company's underlying business improves substantially, which simply does not look likely, given the core problems.

Competitors are eating BlackBerry
BlackBerry continues to lose market share to its competitors in the smartphone space, namely Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG  ) (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) . Technology industry research firm IDC stated in a recent report that BlackBerry was the only operating system to realize a negative year-over-year change in shipment volumes and market share. BlackBerry's market share stood at just 0.6% of all operating systems in the fourth quarter. This pales in comparison to the Android and iOS operating systems, which held 78% and 17% market share, respectively, in the fourth quarter.

BlackBerry is quite simply getting crushed by the continued popularity of the Android and iOS operating systems. Consider that BlackBerry's sales collapsed by 64% in the fourth quarter. BlackBerry had hoped its BlackBerry 10 would restore some momentum last year, but that didn't stop sales from falling off a cliff. In fact, of the 3.4 million BlackBerry smartphones sold to end customers in the fourth quarter, approximately 2.3 million of them were the BlackBerry 7 model. The fact that BlackBerry's brand new device was less popular than its older model is probably not what management had hoped.

Cash is dwindling
A separate item frequently cited in BlackBerry's defense is its balance sheet. Many thought the company's cash pile and patent portfolio were worth more than the what the market value was implying. However, it's important to note the downward trend here as well. BlackBerry reported $2.7 billion in cash, equivalents, and investments at the end of the fourth quarter. That was $500 million less than the amount reported on the balance sheet at the end of the previous quarter.

BlackBerry's assets are simply too hard to value to gamble on. That's because a great deal of BlackBerry's assets are tied up in intangibles, such as its patent portfolio, which are really worth only what a potential buyer is willing to pay. As time passes and competitors pass BlackBerry by, its patents become less valuable to potential suitors.

Moreover, BlackBerry is still losing money. The company lost $5.9 billion last year. Its net loss exploded from $628 million the year prior. As the company continues to hemorrhage money, its balance sheet will deteriorate as well.

No need to gamble on BlackBerry
BlackBerry may entice some investors because of the volatility in its share price. As its stock price falls, you might be tempted to think about gambling on its turnaround prospects. Don't be fooled.

BlackBerry's comeback hopes are dwindling as its business erodes. People simply aren't buying BlackBerry devices. Instead, consumers are clearly flocking to other devices, namely Android and Apple devices. The company is losing market share, and even with the benefit of a new product release last year, it still lost billions of dollars.

As BlackBerry's losses mount, its balance sheet deteriorates. The company is burning through cash, and its patents will only become less valuable as time goes on. At this point, there's simply no need to risk your hard-earned investing dollars on BlackBerry's questionable turnaround prospects, which seem to fade with each passing quarter. 

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Read/Post Comments (8) | Recommend This Article (3)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On May 07, 2014, at 4:05 PM, ronbeasley wrote:

    Right, pay no attention to billionaire Prem Watsa, who has an enviable investment record and who taken a huge stake in the company.

    Listen instead to a motley fool blogger who has no understanding of what John Chen is doing and is trying to sell you subscriptions to a third rate newsletter.

  • Report this Comment On May 07, 2014, at 4:34 PM, k1moops wrote:

    and who are you, Beasley?

  • Report this Comment On May 07, 2014, at 5:54 PM, forexnutca wrote:

    Daniel Loeb must be schmuck too!

  • Report this Comment On May 07, 2014, at 7:07 PM, ronbeasley wrote:

    Response to k1moops - I am someone who listens to highly successful intelligent investors and deplores hacks who try to mislead gullible people in order to sell them useless services.

  • Report this Comment On May 07, 2014, at 8:42 PM, terrydabear wrote:

    ronbeasley investor, here...Prem Watsa has many millions in bbry?...didn't know that....will a billionaire like PW have an exit strategy or hedge, somehow?....I really wanna know, as I've been following bbry for a coupla years, n' think Mr. Chin has a cloo....w/ the minor buy in NantHealth, will that soothe over the $$ bleeding?....and open possibilities that are not yet incorporated into Health/Self-Communication?....I can think of hundreds of possibilities w/ this company setup....thots, anyone?

  • Report this Comment On May 08, 2014, at 7:05 AM, Sotograndeman wrote:

    I'm with ronbeasley. This article is a typically worthless TMF offering with a catchy title (riddled with error) to get attention and no substance. If the author wants to be taken seriously, he should minimally try to understand the valuable assets BBRY has and study John Chen's track record and plan.

    Oh, and besides Watsa and Loeb, add admired Canadian value investor Francis Chou to the list of schmucks. He recently tripled his holdings in BBRY.

    The quality of the present article is reason alone to avoid Fool material of any kind. It's embarrassing.

    Long BBRY (cost basis $7.7)

  • Report this Comment On May 08, 2014, at 9:52 PM, terrydabear wrote: about the lack of available Z3s n' Q10s today...sold out everywhere!...hmmm....this, the NantHealth buy-in, and I have a strong belief that the proprietary software security will take this company back up the ladder...this is the best time....when all others are fearful, be daBull.....but, I have no desire to be a fool, motley or otherwise....

  • Report this Comment On May 09, 2014, at 9:03 AM, jevinzac wrote:

    If BlackBerry will go out of the smartphone market then we people are ones who will be at loss because it's got the best OS which am sure all the people would love to have on their phone but not even 1% of the people are aware of BB10.

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Bob Ciura

Bob Ciura, MBA, has written for The Motley Fool since 2012. I focus on energy, consumer goods, and technology. I look for growth at a reasonable price, with a particular fondness for market-beating dividend yields.

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