That’s an excellent return for anyone who was lucky enough to have bought BlackBerry stock the day before it announced the binding interim arbitration decision.
Timing is everything. Now within spitting distance of $10, its highest level since early 2015, long-time BBRY stock investors have to be feeling better about themselves.
I’m sure Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd (OTCMKTS:FRFHF) CEO Prem Watsa is; Fairfax-owned 46.7 million shares of BlackBerry stock as of December 31, 2016, by far the holding company’s largest equity investment, which Watsa started accumulating in 2011.
Despite a good run by BBRY stock over the past year, aided in April by the unexpected windfall, Watsa is still sitting on a $435 million paper loss so getting to $15 would reduce those losses considerably. I figure Fairfax’s breakeven is $18.25 per share.
So, the next logical question is how soon it can get to $15?
Why BBRY Stock Has a Good Chance
InvestorPlace contributor Vince Martin recently outlined the reasons why BlackBerry’s software business doesn’t have enough growth to support the company’s current share price.
“A $4.9 billion market capitalization still leaves the company with an enterprise value of roughly $3 billion [$1.9 billion cash]. And, as service access fees head toward zero, BlackBerry’s software revenue has to support that value,” said Martin. “Software and service revenue was $622 million in FY17, and was guided up 13%-15% this year coming out of Q4. In other words, BBRY stock now trades at more than 4x software revenue on an enterprise basis — a true growth stock multiple.”
Martin is skeptical about BlackBerry’s software plans and who can blame him? Although CEO John Chen has done a great job righting the ship since coming on board as a result of Prem Watsa’s recommendation back in 2013, many investors still consider the company’s business model broken.
Profit, or no profit, less than $1 billion in software revenue for a company that once had total revenues approaching $20 billion in its heyday is a real step down. It’s possible that Chen has got as much out of BlackBerry as he possibly could, and this is as good as it will ever get.
It’s also possible that the $2 billion in net cash it has on its balance sheet will deliver a transformative acquisition in the next 12 to 18 months. In the meantime, 13% to 15% growth in software revenue is a lot better than contracting sales in the only business segment that’s got a chance.
BlackBerry Stock: Buyer or Seller?
In my April article about BlackBerry, I argued that the odds of a private equity buyer coming along and plunking down $9 billion for BBRY stock were a very real possibility.
Is it going to happen tomorrow? Probably not, but BlackBerry’s future today is a lot brighter than it was a year ago, heck, even a month ago.
Think about it.
You buy BlackBerry, and you don’t even have to go out and find a CEO to run the company. I’m not suggesting that Chen or any other chief executive is worth $9 billion, but the upside to doing this deal seems a lot higher than the downside.
Especially if Chen is able to get BBRY’s software revenue up to about $2 billion annually over the next five years.
At 15% growth per annum, BlackBerry’s software business gets to about $1.3 billion by 2022. An acquisition or two at four times sales means it would have to pay about $2.8 billion to hit $2 billion on the button.
With $2 billion in net cash, it’s not an unrealistic assumption to assume private equity are interested.
Bottom Line BBRY Stock
Watsa and the rest of the board of directors have got to be thinking that if $2 billion in software revenue by 2022 is a realistic number, it makes little sense to entertain buyout offers if Chen and the rest of the team at BlackBerry can get there on their own.
Do I think BBRY stock hits $15 by the end of 2017?
No, but I believe that it’s got a better chance than dropping back down to $5. Time will tell if I’m right.
As of this writing, Will Ashworth did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.