Should You Avoid BlackBerry's Thorny Future?

Should You Avoid BlackBerry's Thorny Future?

A year ago, analysts had hopes of a resurgent BlackBerry . A new phone and a revamped operating system meant price targets of $15 to $43 from its then-price of $11. It made a short trip to $18 on this enthusiasm and hope, before its recent crash down to $6.50 on the news of a failed bid to take it private. While potentially profitable for traders, long-term investors are a bit scratched up from its thorny business.

Is BlackBerry finally worth it at $6.50 per share? Perhaps, but exercise caution before picking up shares.

Fruit left among the thicket
BlackBerry isn't in danger of an immediate death. It still has $2.6 billion in cash, and with the latest deal from Fairfax Financial, another $1 billion to stem off any decline. It has no long-term liabilities. And even though it reported a quarterly loss of nearly $1 billion at the end of September, its cash stockpile only took a $370 million hit.

With the latest deal, the company gets new leadership in John Chen. Chen took over Sybase, a struggling enterprise analytics company that was dealing with an accounting scandal, in 1998. He then turned it around to be sold to SAP in 2010 for $5.8 billion.

BlackBerry also holds a patent portfolio valued between $1 and $3 billion. At its current market capitalization of $3.4 billion, the pessimism about turning any of its current assets into more dollars is extremely high. As proven time and time again in the phone industry, though, once a company falters and loses money, it never recovers its previous market share or profit. Many of these faltering companies do end up getting bought out, however, and the question is whether such a price for BlackBerry will be more or less than its current value.

Arguments for less value
The reason why pessimism is so high is that BlackBerry may not have much beyond its patents in terms of value, and its cash could eventually wither away. Revenue is down from every region and every business, whether hardware, service, or software. With a stunted ecosystem compared to its competitors, who all have much larger cash piles to throw around, the prospect for BlackBerry to regain any semblance of its previous business seems bleak.

BlackBerry's history, then, means very little for its future. The company is cutting 4,500 employees to end up with a total of 7,000. It's selling factories and property. An investment in BlackBerry now is an investment in speculation. The uncertainty could mean its current price is cheap, but know that the chance of it becoming a leading smartphone maker again seems slim.

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