RIM Is for Sale, but Why Would Anybody Buy It?


Research In Motion (NAS: RIMM) keeps going from bad to worse, to even more catastrophic.

The BlackBerry maker never did figure out how to counter the threat of Apple (NAS: AAPL) and Android devices. Years ago, the company could have reacted to the rise of consumer smartphones by making its own corporate-minded handsets friendlier and more entertaining. But that boat sailed long ago, and RIM is stuck in a pattern of restructuringover and over until nothing is left.

That might change soon, though. RIM CEO Thorsten Heins just announced that JPMorgan Chase and Royal Bank of Canada are helping out with a "strategic review." Though Heins highlights how this could mean forming cross-industry partnerships or start licensing intellectual-property assets, that's typically code for "We're looking for an exit strategy."

As far as I can tell, RIM is for sale. But I can't for the life of me figure out who would want to buy it.

I mean, Heins also took the time to post an update on RIM's business, and it's not good news. The company is headed for an operating loss in the first quarter, which ends on Saturday. That would be down from $897 million in operating income in the year-ago period, or $212 million in the fourth quarter. Before this announcement, analysts were looking for a modest net profit this quarter. Operating numbers are often higher than the net take, thanks to tax charges and -- in RIM's case -- writedowns of unsold inventory.

In short, you're not getting a bargain here even if you buy RIM for a song.

Apple wouldn't spend a nickel to scoop this mess up. If nothing else, working BlackBerry technology into the iPhone platform would bastardize Cupertino's beautiful, pristine software. Google (NAS: GOOG) made a big buy in the mobile space very recently and doesn't look likely to go for another one right now. Nokia (NYS: NOK) might be interested, but it can hardly afford all of RIM and has already hitched its cart to Microsoft's horse anyway.

Heins keeps a stiff upper lip, talking about "steady progress" on the bet-the-house BlackBerry 10 launch and "significant progress on a number of fronts." But when the first of these "significant progress" reports is the mundane fact that RIM pulled off the annual BlackBerry World conference last month, you have to wonder how much longer the optimism can last.

Apple may not have killed RIM singlehandedly, but it both got the ball rolling and certainly did its share near the end. Our senior technology analyst thinks Apple still has plenty of room to run, with or without RIM. He spills out exactly why in our brand-new premium report on Apple. If you want a broader picture of the smartphone revolution, find out in our report why investors are so excited about this exploding trillion-dollar revolution.

At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributorAnders Bylundowns shares in Google but holds no other position in any of the companies mentioned. Check outAnders' holdings and bio, or follow him onTwitterandGoogle+. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Google.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Apple and Google and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy. We Fools don't all hold the same opinion, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days.

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