BlackBerry's (NYSE:BB) stock price took a beating last year, with shares down 37% year-to-date. Several events have continued to force the company's share price down. A $1 billion inventory write-off and Fairfax Financial's failed takeover attempt pushed shares to the $6 range. But, there is still hope for BlackBerry.
Here are three catalysts and one challenge for BlackBerry in 2014:
BlackBerry announced that it will be split up into four new divisions: enterprise services, messaging, QNX, and devices. This new structure will allow each division to focus on its respective products and services, instead of having to work in tandem with multiple divisions at the same time.
According to a Wall Street Journal report, BlackBerry was considering cutting up to 40% of its global workforce by the end of last year as part of its restructuring efforts. Investors could also see additional employee cuts later in 2014. With BlackBerry shedding extra costs, the company has a better shot at becoming profitable.
BlackBerry's interim CEO, John Chen, said that he plans to realign the company's top management. With the company's top marketing executive, Frank Boulben, recently out the door, BlackBerry may take on a new marketing approach. Telecompaper reported that Chen appointed a new senior vice president of marketing, Mark Wilson, who was previously chief marketing officer of Avaya. Chen also appointed another executive last week.
Both of these new appointees have worked with Chen in the past. If Chen can continue packing the company's leadership with former colleagues, he should be able to steer the company toward profitability with greater ease.
Partnership with Foxconn
BlackBerry has struggled with it's new mobile devices. Sales have been sluggish and, in turn, BlackBerry has had large inventory write-offs. But, that's about to change thanks to its partnership with Foxconn.
ValueWalk reports that the two companies will be working to produce smartphones for Indonesia and other emerging markets. BlackBerry's interim CEO said that Foxconn would likely be taking over device design since it had so much experience controlling costs in handset production.
Foxconn has experience manufacturing mobile devices for one of BlackBerry's competitors, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) as well as other technology firms like Dell and Acer. Foxconn, thanks to Apple, has been good at controlling the supply of Apple's devices being manufactured at its plants. Foxconn's expertise from manufacturing devices for Apple should be valuable for BlackBerry.
With Foxconn also controlling the cost of BlackBerry's new handsets, investors could see much higher margins from sales of new, lower-end BlackBerry phones in 2014. High margins on low-cost phones could prove very valuable in emerging markets such as Indonesia, Nigeria, and the Philippines.
By allowing Foxconn to design and manufacture BlackBerry's mobile phones for emerging markets, BlackBerry can focus on improving its lucrative enterprise devices. BlackBerry announced that its BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 was gaining traction. It said that there are now more than 30,000 commercial and test servers installed, compared to 25,000 in September.
Earlier this year, BlackBerry rolled out its messaging service, BBM, on iOS and Android. ValueWalk reports that BBM could have up to 80 million users, with 60% of those users visiting the app daily.
More than 12 companies that manufacture Android devices have also agreed to preload the BBM application onto new handsets. The most notable firm is LG, whose handsets are sold all over the world.
This year, Kaokao, South Korea's most popular messaging app, expects to have $200 million in revenue. Most of the revenue is generated from paid advertisements within the application. With BBM gaining access to South Korea, one of the most lucrative mobile messaging markets per capita, through its partnership with LG, BlackBerry could earn significant advertising revenue.
Two of the biggest blows to BlackBerry's stock price last year stemmed from inventory write-offs. With BlackBerry manufacturing far more phones than in can sell, it is setting itself up for disaster. However, investors should not be worried about significant inventory write-offs in 2014, thanks to the companies partnership with Foxconn.
BlackBerry will still control production of its higher-end devices, and may end up making the same inventory-related mistakes it made last year. Investors should keep an eye on inventory write-offs in the company's earnings report for the third quarter of 2014. A smaller inventory write-off could indicate improvement.
BlackBerry is looking strong heading into 2014. Thanks to the new divisions at BlackBerry, there will be innovative products and services coming out of each division, instead of the mediocre attempts at collaboration seen in the past with BlackBerry 10's rollout.
Its new partnership with Foxconn will likely help sales of mobile devices and leave BlackBerry with higher margins. This new partnership will also allow BlackBerry to focus on its enterprise business.
Investors could see BBM become a vital component of BlackBerry revenue over the next year. With 80 million users already, investors could see 100 million BBM users by June. BBM could become one of the world's most popular messaging apps.