by Tom Taulli | July 2, 2013 9:55 am
BlackBerry’s (BBRY) summer sure got off to a rough start.
The tech company was hoping to show investors that things are getting back on track, but its recent first-quarter results did the exact opposite. Blackberry lost $84 million, or 16 cents a share, on $3.1 billion in revenue during Q1 … while Wall Street had been expecting a profit of 5 cents per share and revenues of $3.37 billion.
On the news, shares of BlackBerry lost more than a quarter of their value.
Is there any hope for a turnaround? To see, let’s take a look at the pros and cons.
The Enterprise. The focus on corporate communications has been a key advantage for BlackBerry. The company boasts sophisticated systems that integrate with corporate email, voice PBX and real-time IM from IBM (IBM) and Microsoft (MSFT). BlackBerry has also developed its system for end-to-end security via data encryption, application control and card readers. BlackBerry even has the QNX platform — technology that helps power traffic control systems, in-dash radio, casino gaming terminals, surgical equipment and even nuclear power plants.
Patents. They might seem small, but patents have become highly important in the mobile world. Over the years, there have been billion-dollar purchases for patent portfolios from companies like AOL (AOL) and Nortel, while Google (GOOG) bought Motorola to get access to its portfolio. BlackBerry itself has a treasure trove of intellectual property — a portfolio estimated to worth around $2.25 billion. In all, BlackBerry has over 7,500 issued and pending patents.
Financials. BlackBerry has about $3.1 billion in the bank and minimal debt. This compares to a market cap of $5.3 billion. In other words, the whole business is currently valued at only $2.2 billion — a mere 0.24 times revenues. BlackBerry has also been aggressive cutting back on its expenses. Even with weak sales, the company is not likely to plunge into bankruptcy any time soon.
The Product. Over the past two years, BlackBerry has been trying to catch up to Apple (AAPL) and Samsung (SSNLF) via its BB10 operating system. It launched three models of the Z10 smartphone as well as the Q10, which has a physical keyboard, this year. Oh, and there was a cheaper smartphone for emerging markets, known as the Q5. Unfortunately, the customer response has been fairly tepid despite BlackBerry’s aggressive marketing campaign. In Q1, the company shipped only 2.7 million smartphones, which was at the low end of analysts’ consensus.
An Uphill Climb. Comebacks are tough, and the history of mobile devices is brutal. Once-dominant companies like Motorola, Nokia (NOK) and Palm all self-destructed and have not been able to get back to their former glory. Even mega-companies — with seemingly unlimited resources — have had an extremely hard time making a dint in the mobile market. Just look at Microsoft.
Ecosystem. Consumers want cool apps. It’s that simple. But if a mobile platform does not have much scale, then developers will ignore it — as they have done with BlackBerry. The company has even tried programs to encourage development but so far, the efforts have been a bust.
In the end, it’s highly unlikely that BlackBerry will close shop. The company is highly liquid and still has a core business that throws off cash.
The problem, though, is that BlackBerry will probably remain a niche player in the mobile market. This means it really will not benefit from the mega-trend and will instead mostly tread water. Heck, the best hope for the company might just be to sell out to a bigger fish like Microsoft or Google. BlackBerry has a strong patent portfolio, a nice enterprise footprint and talented engineers.
Of course, it’s never easy to predict a buyout. So in light of all this, the cons outweigh the pros on the stock.
Tom Taulli runs the InvestorPlace blog IPO Playbook. He is also the author of High-Profit IPO Strategies, All About Commodities and All About Short Selling. Follow him on Twitter at @ttaulli. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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