In December of last year, John Chen, new CEO of BlackBerry (BB -2.05%), published an open letter filled with promises and optimistic statements about the future of the company. At the time, investors were not very impressed, with some calling the letter a sad attempt to spin the company's dire circumstances into something more positive. However, recent months have seen a steady climb in BlackBerry's market value despite the relatively negative sentiment.
New deals with Ford and Apple (AAPL -0.40%) and renewed confidence in messaging apps in the wake of Facebook's (META -1.06%) acquisition of WhatsApp have boosted the company's stock. This gives investors good cause to restore some faith in BlackBerry and Chen. As the company finally breaks the $10-per-share barrier, this is a good moment to reflect on the promises and plans laid out in the open letter and see how BlackBerry is progressing with them.
The shift to enterprise
In the letter, Chen states, "Our EMM customer base is much larger than any of the other vendors in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Mobile Device Management -- and is growing." The company has made clear that it intends to focus on its enterprise customers more than the consumer market. So pessimism related to decreased mobile sales is misleading, as BlackBerry is consciously pulling away from this market and investing more of its resources into its growing enterprise mobile management division.
Enterprise has long been one of BlackBerry's stronger suits, and the restructuring of the company's business strategy to focus on this sector shows great vision and a strong plan to attain real future growth.
Blackberry's balance sheet
Chen also dispels the pessimistic rumors being spread about the company's financial viability. He writes, "we have substantial cash and are not a small VC-backed 'pure play' MDM player seeking additional funds every year." A look at BlackBerry's balance sheet confirms this statement. The company currently boasts about $5.91 in cash per share, which is strong for shares trading at just more than $10.
Multi-platform mobile device management
Chen's letter stated "we're serious about multi-platform MDM and even more serious about multi-platform EMM. Making this change enables us to manage all devices, turbo-charge BYOD initiatives, and provide the very best management experience." In the first few months of this year, we have already seen reports of BlackBerry making a deal with Ford to run the car maker's Sync mobile phone multimedia software, and to put some of BlackBerry's technology into Apple's CarPlay in-car infotainment system.
Facebook's pricey acquisition of Whatsapp gave investors renewed hope that there is, indeed, a future for messaging services. The deal to acquire Whatsapp -- totaling more than $16 billion -- took the news by storm, resulting in a 2.5% boost to Facebook shares and an even higher 4.3% boost to BlackBerry's.
Ford's switch to BlackBerry was an important vote of confidence in the company. And the deal with Apple comes as proof of BlackBerry's commitment to multi-platform mobile device management. This, together with the company's reinvigorated focus on its growing enterprise customer base shows that BlackBerry and Chen have their gaze set firmly on the future.
These shifts in strategy signal an important characteristic of strength in BlackBerry -- its flexibility. Chen said it back in December and the months following the publication of his open letter have only confirmed the efficacy of the company's new strategy as well as Chen's own pre-emptive optimism.
Back in 2013, John Chen's letter read as an overly optimistic vision of the company's future. However, in retrospect, we can see that he may not have been far from the mark. The stock is up 90% since Chen became the new CEO, and it's up 30% since the beginning of 2014. The company has proven itself to have real potential as a turnaround stock. Prospective investors would benefit the most from BlackBerry's increasing upward momentum if they buy before the earnings report is released at the end of this month.