Finally, someone put BlackBerry out of its misery.
After a truly nightmarish weekend that saw BlackBerry report a quarterly loss of $1 billion dollars (a whopping three times what analysts were predicting), the layoff of 4,500 of its employees, and the forceful withdrawing of its BBM app from Apple and Android App Stores, BlackBerry has officially thrown its hands in the air and given up. On Monday, it was announced that BlackBerry has signed a preliminary agreement to go private under the wing of Fairfax Financial, a Toronto-based financial holding company worth $30 billion.
At its peak, BlackBerry was worth a cool $80 billion, and boasted 80 million users worldwide. Fairfax is acquiring it for $4.7 billion, a tiny fraction of what it was worth in its glory days. The company had held its own for the first decade of the millennium, presenting a viable alternative to Apple and Android ... and then, after the Apple boom hit, it started falling out of favor. And falling, and falling further. (We might actually use the word 'skydiving' here.) Said one employee to the Wall Street Journal last week: "It's not low morale. It's no morale. It's like working at a hospice center. It's not a matter of if, but when."
BlackBerry's make-or-break product was the BlackBerry 10 smartphone, which failed to impress. The company then brought in an independent advisor committee to figure out their next move. On Friday, after reporting profits that will haunt every technology company's nightmares, BlackBerry announced its intention to lay off 4,500, or roughly a third, of its employees. Its chief has been open about the possibility of selling, but analysts were skeptical that BlackBerry would even find a buyer at this point. Reports emerged a month ago that the company was considering selling off its BBM division, the only part of BlackBerry that might be worth something at this point.
It's not a done deal yet: due diligence, which basically means checking over the company for yourself, is due to complete Nov. 4, when the acquisition should then take place. Between now and then, however, BlackBerry is permitted to shop around for other buyers. Going private should help BlackBerry restructure and figure things out without the embarrassment of having to report quarterly profits, and was what the independent committee had recommended. Still, it's pretty difficult to function as a smartphone company without being publicly traded, as some analysts have pointed out.
Fairfax already holds about 10 percent of BlackBerry's shares. For every shareholder held by private investors, Fairfax will hand over $9.
And for a pictorial explanation of what's happened, we give you this Google Finance graph.