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Analyst sees Fairfax slashing BlackBerry bid to just $7 a share Add to ...

These are stories Report on Business is following Monday, Sept. 30, 2013.

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What price BlackBerry?
CanaccordGenuity believes Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. will indeed complete a buyout of BlackBerry Ltd., but at a much lower price.

Investors continue to question the likelihood of a deal - BlackBerry stock is still more than $1 below the proposed offer of $9 a share (U.S.) - while analyst Michael Walkley sees a final offer of just $7.

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BlackBerry shares remain well below the suggested bid despite repeated assurances from Fairfax chief executive officer Prem Watsa that he's confident of success.

Mr. Watsa proposes a Fairfax-led consortium that would acquire BlackBerry for $4.7-billion, but markets are skeptical, citing issues of financial and questions about who else would join the takeover group.

Mr. Watsa has until early November to firm up his letter of intent after scouring BlackBerry’s books.

“While we maintain our hold rating, we lower our price target to $7 reflecting our updated sum-of-parts valuation and our belief the most likely outcome for BlackBerry is a sale to Fairfax Financial and its partners at a lower price of $7 post further diligence,” analyst Mr. Walkley said today.

Analyst Todd Coupland of CIBC World Markets, however, pegs the value of BlackBerry at $12, based on a sum-of-the-parts analysis.

In the wake of the company’s second-quarter loss of almost $1-billion, reported Friday, Mr. Coupland said he believes Fairfax will get the financing needed, and that a rival offer could materialized.

But his take is interesting: “We … believe the shares can only be bought for this process as the current fundamentals would yield a lower price.”

Investors anxious
Global markets tumbled today as the U.S. government headed toward a partial shutdown of services.

As The Globe and Mail’s Kevin Carmichael reports, politicians got nowhere over the weekend to settling their issues over health care, thus failing to extend Washington’s spending authority.

If the Democrat and Republican forces can’t settle their differences by midnight – and it certainly appears at this point like they won’t – the fiscal year will end and certain non-essential services will halt.

Investors are, of course, on edge, with the prospect of the first politically-sparked government shutdown since the mid-1990s, and the hit to the economy that that would mean.

Political “shenanigans” in Italy are also playing into the turmoil, noted market analyst Alastair McCaig of IG in London.

“Not since 1995 has the U.S. public sector had to shut down operations due to the two heavyweight political powers failing to agree debt ceiling issues, but unless progress is made within the next 24 hours that looks likely to change,” Mr. McCaig said.

“Historically, it's the government sovereign debt markets that have suffered rather than equities,” he said this morning.

“Unsurprisingly this has badly affected confidence and all the major U.S. equity markets are looking softer ahead of the open.”

Markets sank across the globe, beginning in Asia, spreading to Europe and then to North America.

Senior market analyst Michael Hewson of CMC Markets in London slammed politicians in both the United States and Italy.

On Italy: “The actions of Silvio Berlusconi in pulling his five ministers out of the government have shattered the uneasy truce between the coalition parties that had been in place since April, and effectively made Europe’s third-biggest economy even more ungovernable than it already has been in the last few months.”

On the U.S.: “Things aren’t much better in the U.S. where Republicans and Democrat politicians are doing their best impression of looking at pressing the self-destruct button as both parties dig in their seemingly entrenched positions over the agreement of a budget to avert a government shutdown, by agreeing a budget by Oct. 1 as well as trying to find an agreement to raising the debt ceiling by Oct. 17.”

He was referring to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s warning that the U.S. government will be tapped out by Oct. 17 if the debt limit isn’t raised.

By one calculation, a shutdown of two weeks would trim fourth-quarter gross domestic product by 0.3 of a percentage point, annualized. A 30-day shutdown would 0.7 of a percentage point.

The last shutdown in the mid-1990s was estimated to cut economic growth by half a percentage point in the fourth quarter, but GDP rose by almost 3 per cent nonetheless on consumer and business spending, said senior economist Sal Guatieri of BMO Nesbitt Burns.

"However, it's no stretch to say the economy rests on softer ground today," he added.

"Higher rates of foreclosure and unemployment than in late 1995 (2.4 and 1.7 percentage points higher, respectively), combined with more household debt (one-fifth more relative to disposable income), suggest consumers are more vulnerable today," he added in a research report.

Brookfield to meld units
Brookfield Property Partners plans to buy the rest of Brookfield Office Properties in a $5-billion deal that would form one of the world’s biggest commercial real estate companies, The Globe and Mail's Eric Atkins reports.

Shareholders in Brookfield Office would receive $19.34 (U.S.) a share, a 15-per-cent premium over the current trading price, or one unit in Brookfield Property.

If the deal goes ahead, Brookfield Property would own $45-billion worth of office, retail and apartment properties.

Brookfield Property was spun off this year from Brookfield Asset Management, the head of the Brookfield family of companies that is formerly known as Brascan. It owns 51 per cent of Brookfield Office.

Economy perks up
Canada’s economy rebounded in July, expanding by 0.6 per cent after slipping 0.5 per cent a month earlier.

Industry winners included construction, manufacturing, mining and energy, Statistics Canada said today, while the agriculture and forestry sectors slipped.

The bounce-back in construction, which grew by almost 2 per cent, was partly because of the end of a major strike in Quebec.

“Remember than June also saw the impacts of floods in Alberta, so the see-saw figures for the two months have to be put together,” said chief economist Avery Shenfeld of CIBC World Markets.

“In that sense, the economy was barely better that flat in the two months, but the absence of the downward weather/strike impacts in Q3 will set that quarter up for an above trend gain.”

32 seek amnesty
SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. says a total of 32 people made amnesty requests under its three-month program encouraging employees to blow the whistle on corruption within the company.

The amnesty program, however, failed to ferret out any new information “of a material nature” regarding alleged ethical violations in addition to those already uncovered at the engineering and construction giant, The Globe and Mail's Bertrand Marotte reports.

Still, Montreal-based SNC said in a statement today that “the information the company received did confirm its previous assessment of corruption risks.”

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