TORONTO (Reuters) - Research In Motion Ltd’s RIM.TO RIMM.O latest profit warning and its move to hire bankers to explore strategic options have raised speculation the BlackBerry maker might consider a piecemeal sale of its assets.
Here is an overview of the assets of the one-time technology giant and some estimates on what the assets could be worth.
RIM’s services business, the core of the company’s vaunted security offering, routes data through a network of servers that are spread across the globe. It is arguably the most valuable of RIM’s assets and supports a subscriber base of 78 million users.
Of these, analysts estimate that roughly 20 million users are enterprise or corporate users - a very attractive and hugely profitable base that would be of interest to the likes of Google Inc (GOOG.O) and Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O), which own and license their operating systems to other handset makers such as Samsung and Nokia. The network could also be of use as a content delivery mechanism for a company such as Amazon.Com Inc (AMZN.O).
Analysts at Canaccord Genuity say that Google or Microsoft could run virtual versions of RIM’s operating system on future smartphones and use RIM’s network operations center (NOC) to migrate users onto rival devices down the road.
“We believe RIM’s BlackBerry Enterprise Server and NOC architecture and recurring enterprise revenue stream are RIM’s key strategic assets and are attractive to potential suitors,” said Canaccord, which values the segment at about $2.75 billion.
Other estimates peg the services business as being worth as much as $4.5 billion, but analysts also warn that using RIM’s infrastructure to support other operating systems might be a technically challenging task.
Ever since RIM escaped a life-threatening patent dispute in its early years, it has actively registered scores of inventions ranging from the angles on its famous thumb-friendly keyboard to its methods for synchronizing data.
RIM’s patent portfolio would be attractive to Google, Apple, Samsung, Nokia, Microsoft and other players in the fast growing smartphone market. Analysts and bankers value RIM’s patents at somewhere between $2 billion and $3 billion.
But some analysts are not assigning any value to a block of patents that RIM acquired from bankrupt telecommunications company Nortel in 2011, as RIM acquired these as part of a consortium that included Apple, Microsoft, EMC Corp EMC.N, Ericsson (ERICb.ST) and Sony Corp (6758.T).
“Given the Nortel patents are owned by a multi-company consortium controlled by majority holder Apple, we believe selling these patents could prove challenging,” Canaccord analysts wrote in a research note to clients.
Analysts see little to no value in RIM’s handset business, which likely lost money last year, according to some analysts who parsed the finer points of the company’s filings.
The big negative for RIM flagged by analysts at Nomura are the “likely long-term losses from the device unit and the possible $2 billion needed to gradually close this unit down.”
Although many are beginning to draw parallels between former Canadian blue chip Nortel and RIM, the one major distinction is that RIM, unlike Nortel, is not burdened with debt.
RIM, whose current market capitalization has fallen to about $5.5 billion, in fact has a cash reserve of about $2.1 billion. But Wall Street is ascribing little to no value to this stash, as a large part of it will likely go toward restructuring costs.
Some analysts believe the company could raise some capital from the sale of buildings and other physical assets.
Reporting By Euan Rocha and Alastair Sharp