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The Blackberry flag outside Blackberry 1 located at 175 Columbia St. West in Waterloo, Ont. Another round of layoffs at BlackBerry’s headquarters will trim its staff by 300 employees. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
The Blackberry flag outside Blackberry 1 located at 175 Columbia St. West in Waterloo, Ont. Another round of layoffs at BlackBerry’s headquarters will trim its staff by 300 employees. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Business Briefing

What’s BlackBerry worth in wake of failed deal? Add to ...

These are stories Report on Business is following Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013.

Follow Michael Babad and The Globe's Business Briefing on Twitter.

BlackBerry inches up
Shares of BlackBerry Ltd. climbed today as analysts try to put a new value on the company in the wake of its failed takeover.

John Chen, the former chief of Sybase Inc. who was parachuted in yesterday to rescue the smartphone maker, said he believes “we’re going to build tremendous value for shareholders.”

But some analysts see this playing out differently.

To recap, Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. had signed a letter of intent to lead a consortium that would buy BlackBerry for $4.7-billion (U.S.), or $9 a share.

Other parties were also interested, including what had been shaping up as a group that would be made up of U.S. private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, BlackBerry co-founders Mike Lazaridis and Doug Fregin, and chip maker Qualcomm Inc.

In the end, there was a lot of talk and little action as BlackBerry announced yesterday it was taking down the “for sale” sign and opting instead for $1-billion in fresh funds through the sale of convertible notes to a group that includes Fairfax. There’s an option for an added $250-million.

That led to a plunge in its stock of more than 16 per cent to $6.50. Today, BlackBerry shares rose 2.5 per cent to $6.66 by about midday on Nasdaq.

Analysts, of course, slashed their targets for BlackBerry stock, but in a wide range.

One of the bleakest assessments came from National Bank analyst Kris Thompson, who cut his price target on the stock to $3 from $9, arguing that debenture holders will be ahead of shareholders to the tune of about $2 a share.

The convertible debentures would, if converted, account for some 16 per cent of BlackBerry stock.

CanaccordGenuity’s Michael Walkley trimmed his price target to $6 from $7 based on the “sum of the parts,” projecting a breakup of the company when the music stops.

Gus Papageorgiou of Bank of Nova Scotia trimmed his price target to $8 from $10.60 in the absence of a sale.

“The net cash per share is $4.90,” he said.

“Distressed technology companies can trade just above their cash value.”

Having said that, he also believes that the success of BlackBerry’s BBM chat service represents a big opportunity for the company, in time possibly worth $300-million a year in mobile advertising revenue.

That could spell good news for the stock, though it’s not in the works at this point.

CIBC World Markets analyst Todd Coupland, who cut his price target to $5 from $12, said BlackBerry’s balance sheet is now “in good shape,” but the company’s “time to turnaround will be long, with success uncertain.”

Competitive issues remain, he said, though the financial concerns are settled for now.

Could BlackBerry still be sold intact? Of course, but some analysts don’t see that as the end game.

“Other potential bidders have been inside the tent; nobody liked what they saw,” said National Bank’s Mr. Thompson. “Why should we?”

Canaccord’s Mr. Walkley also sees it playing out differently.

“While BlackBerry is remaining a standalone public company, this potential influx of $1.25-billion in cash is intended to help buy time for new management to continue its pursuit of other potential acquirers,” he said.

“However, given BlackBerry hired bankers well over a year ago to pursue strategic alternatives without finding a successful purchaser, we believe the company will eventually likely be sold in pieces rather than its entirety to one buyer.”

Encana in overhaul
Encana Corp. is sharpening both its focus and its knife.

The Canadian energy giant today unveiled a massive overhaul that will narrow its focus to five North American resource plays, while it spins off its royalty-producing assets into a separate concern.

It’s also slashing its quarterly dividend to 7 cents from 20 cents, and will cut loose 20 per cent of its work force.

As The Globe and Mail’s Bertrand Marotte reports, the Calgary-based company plans to pump about three-quarters of its capital next year into five plays: Montney, Duvernay, DJ Basin, San Juan Basic and Tuscaloosa Marine Shale.

It plans to hold a sizeable stake in the spun-off group.

“One of Encana’s competitive advantages is our team’s ability to develop large, complex resource plays where we can implement our full resource play hub process that is proven to drive down costs and create higher returns,” said chief executive officer Doug Suttles.

“The five high-quality liquids-rich plays we’ve chosen to focus on offer the scale and running room we need to realize that advantage.”

Europe's outlook still bleak
David Madden may have described it best today: “According to the EU economic forecast, the euro zone has a future as bright as Guy Fawkes did: Growth will be sluggish and unemployment will remain stubbornly high.”

The London-based IG analyst was referring to new projections from the European Commission, which cut its forecasts for growth in the troubled region.

As our European correspondent Eric Reguly writes, the EC now expects the 17-nation euro zone will see economic growth of just 1.1 per cent next year.

The monetary union has been slammed by a debt crisis that resulted in sovereign bailouts and troubles in the banking system.

Unemployment is at intolerable levels in countries such as Greece and Spain, where young people, in particular, can’t find work.

“There are increasing signs that the European economy has reached a turning point,” said EC economics commissioner Olli Rehn.

“But it is too early to declare victory: Unemployment remains at unacceptably high levels.”

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