For the past several years, BlackBerry (NYSE:BB) 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.
Bob Ciura owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Google (A shares), and Google (C shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google (A shares), and Google (C shares). Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.