Unless another buyer is found, BlackBerry is going to sell itself to Fairfax Financial, which already owns 10% of the company, with backing by Bank of America Merrill Lynch and BMO Capital Markets, the company just announced.
The price? $4.7 billion, which is in line with previous estimates for the value of BlackBerry. But what exactly does that money get BlackBerry’s buyers?
$0 is the worth of BlackBerry’s handset business, the company’s entire reason for existing, say analysts at Raymond James.
$1.2 billion for BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), the free instant-messaging service that BlackBerry phone owners can use, and BlackBerry’s “enterprise infrastructure.” That might sound like a lot for a system for exchanging what are essentially text messages—not least given that WhatsApp, a company with just 45 employees which was earlier this year reported to be discussing a sale to Google for $1 billion, has an app that lets you do the same thing, only better, and it works on every major smartphone, BlackBerrys included.
The difference is that BBM is a system secure enough that governments use it to carry sensitive communications, and it comes with all the rest of BlackBerry’s enterprise systems, which includes the BlackBerry Enterprise Server software which is running behind countless corporate and government firewalls all over the world.
$2.8 billion is the amount of cash BlackBerry has sitting in the bank.
$1 billion for BlackBerry’s portfolio of patents. This portfolio has generated the widest spectrum of estimates, and like other items of somewhat intangible value, it may simply be worth what some giant company (like Google or Apple or Microsoft) is willing to pay for it in order to see it not end up in the hands of a competitor who might use these patents to litigate. Some say the patents are worth $5 billion alone, some just $2.25 billion. All in, BlackBerry has 5,236 US patents and 3,730 active applications.
If BlackBerry is bought for around $5 billion, and its patent portfolio turns out to be worth a lot more than $1 billion, Fairfax Financial and its backers could pocket a nice profit simply by flipping the company’s parts to interested parties.