Squishing the BlackBerry

If you follow stocks long enough, you'll inevitably discover that companies go through bad times. Those are the periods that occasionally create a buying opportunity for the bold. More often, however, bad is really bad. I suspect that the latter situation holds true for Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) .

Allow me to explain. On Friday, a federal court here in the U.S. told Canada-based Research in Motion that it wouldn't stay a case brought against it by NTP, a technology holding company. There are several reasons why this is horrible news, but the soundbite is simply this: Sales and service of the popular BlackBerry handheld communicator may come to a halt. Soon.

At issue is NTP's patents. The company first filed suit against Research In Motion in 2000, claiming that the BlackBerry relies on NTP's intellectual property. The court sided with NTP in 2002. By August of 2003, a District Court judge in Virginia had issued an injunction halting sales of the device. A stay of that judgment was immediately issued pending appeal, and the decision has loomed over the company like a dark cloud ever since. That's likely one of the reasons that Research In Motion agreed to a $450 million licensing settlement with NTP in March.

But that deal has since gone sour. And with Friday's ruling, at least some version of the original decision could be enforced, even as Research In Motion appeals its case to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a word: ouch.

An injunction against the BlackBerry would surely deliver a serious blow to Research In Motion. It isn't a well-diversified company. More than $1.35 billion during the fiscal year ended in February -- nearly all of its revenue -- was derived from sales of new BlackBerry devices and fees for its wireless email delivery service.

So, are Research In Motion shares worth the risk? Some back-of-the-napkin math says no. I plugged the following numbers into the Discounted Cash Flow calculator that's available to Motley Fool Inside Value subscribers:

  • $310.8 million in trailing-12-month free cash flow.
  • 191 million shares outstanding.

Analysts expect Research In Motion to expand earnings by 20% over the next five years. Since the company's FCF has closely followed earnings, I plugged in 20% growth to 2010, 12% for the next five years after that, and 5% onward. And then I applied a 15% discount rate (perhaps generously) to account for legal risks and the heap of competition from Palm (Nasdaq: PALM  ) , Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) , and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) , among others. That brought a fair value of -- gulp -- $37 per stub. The stock is currently trading at around $61 a share.

My point: Research In Motion shares are hardly undervalued. And as of today, they're a whole lot more risky. My guess is that you'd be better off investing your money elsewhere.

Put that PDA down. We've got related Foolishness right here:

  • Maybe Research In Motion ought to be on your watch list after all.
  • That darn CrackBerry; it's so addicting.
  • Maybe that's why the first-quarter results were so good.

Palm is aMotley Fool Stock Advisorrecommendation.

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The Motley Fool has kicked off its ninth annual Foolanthropy campaign! Nominate your favorite charities on ourFoolanthropy discussion boardthrough Nov. 1. For guidelines on what makes a charity Foolish, visitwww.foolanthropy.com.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is especially fond of blackberries on his cereal. Mmmmmm, tasty. Tim owns shares of Nokia. You can find out what else is in his portfolio by checking Tim's Fool profile. The Motley Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.


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