Is BlackBerry set to become a small part of Samsung's sprawling consumer electronics empire? The two companies have flatly denied reports they are talking to each other about a potential $7.5 billion takeover by the South Korean firm, but that does not rule out the possibility an offer has been made.
So what would Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC) have to gain from splashing out on a company whose own employees don't seem to think much of its products, given that BlackBerry 's social media team was earlier this week caught tweeting from an iPhone?
Well, the phones probably wouldn't be of much interest. Sales in that area are falling fast, and BlackBerry managed just 1.9 million smartphone shipments in its last September-to-October quarter, down from 4.3 million a year earlier.
BlackBerry does, however, hold some valuable patents in the security and business-to-business areas, according to analysts cited in a Bloomberg report, and its in-car software might also have piqued Samsung's interest as the "connected car" industry continues to motor on.
Indeed, BlackBerry has been trying to reinvent itself as a mover and shaker in the fast-developing Internet of Things (IoT) market. Earlier this month, it launched a new IoT platform that is based on its QNX software -- saying it would first target the automotive and asset-tracking industries before turning its attention elsewhere -- and Samsung is sure to have taken note.
South Korea's biggest company is angling for a leading IoT role itself and has already made some bold moves in the related smart home sector. In August last year it was reported to have spent around $200 million on a startup called SmartThings, whose technology helps to connect household appliances. Samsung also appears to see an IoT opportunity for its much-maligned Tizen operating system, which is to support all of the smart TVs it launches this year. (See Tizen OS to Power All Samsung Smart TVs in 2015.)
It is not as if Samsung and BlackBerry are complete strangers, either. Through a strategic partnership announced in November, the Canadian company has been providing security technology for use in Samsung's Knox system, which features in Android-based devices sold to enterprise customers.
Nevertheless, Samsung is not recognized as a big spender when it comes to M&A, and the reported offer price of $7.5 billion is 46% higher than BlackBerry's market capitalization on January 13, before rumors of a potential deal began to circulate. BlackBerry's share price closed up 29.8% on January 14 but had fallen back around 18% at the time this blog was published, after the company denied it was in talks with Samsung.
BlackBerry investors, though, would be holding out for a lot more, according to a source close to the company cited by Reuters, and Samsung could certainly afford a higher fee if it believed it were getting value for money. Last year, the South Korean behemoth reported net profit of $28.9 billion on revenues of $217 billion and was sitting on a net cash pile of about $40.2 billion.
BlackBerry is said to have claimed it has plenty of potential suitors, but its dwindling mainstream business is bound to be a turn-off for many, and few have the financial wherewithal of Samsung. "BlackBerry has not engaged in discussions with Samsung," said the Canadian company on Wednesday. Perhaps it should.
— Iain Morris, News Editor, Light Reading