Wed, Mar 13, 2013 - Page 15 News List

BlackBerry stock boosted by launch, takeover hopes

SLIM CHANCE:Analysts said a bid by China’s Lenovo for the Canadian firm was unlikely, but shares still rallied on news that AT&T would sell the BlackBerry Z10 in the US

Reuters, TORONTO, Canada

A BlackBerry Z10 smartphone is displayed at a store in Toronto, Canada, on Feb. 5.

Photo: Reuters

BlackBerry Ltd shares rose 14 percent on Monday, fueled by takeover speculation and news that AT&T Inc will start selling the new BlackBerry Z10 touchscreen smartphone in the US on March 22.

The speculation was sparked by a comment from the head of China’s Lenovo Group Ltd (聯想), who told a French newspaper on Monday that the PC maker might consider an acquisition of Canada’s BlackBerry at some point in the future.

“External growth remains a question of opportunities,” Lenovo CEO Yang Yuanqing (楊元慶) said in an interview with Les Echos.

“As for BlackBerry, the file could eventually make sense, but I must first analyze the market and understand the exact weight of this company,” he said in response to a question about whether Lenovo would make a move on the smartphone maker.

However, analysts poured cold water on the speculation that the Chinese technology giant would make a move on BlackBerry, formerly known as Research in Motion Ltd (RIM).

“We believe a takeout of BlackBerry is unlikely, especially in the near term, nor is our investment thesis or ‘outperform’ rating predicated on such an event,” Wells Fargo analyst Maynard Um said in a note to clients.

A Lenovo spokesman in Canada also downplayed the CEO’s comment, saying that “in no way was this an indication of activity or strategic direction.”

Another Lenovo executive had made a similar comment when asked about BlackBerry in January. That remark had also sparked a rally in BlackBerry shares, but Lenovo said at the time that the executive was only speaking broadly about a merger and acquisition strategy.

Analysts are also skeptical if the Canadian government, which in 2010 blocked mining giant BHP Billiton’s US$39 billion bid for Potash Corp, would easily approve a Chinese acquisition of BlackBerry.

“An acquisition might be difficult,” Morningstar Inc analyst Brian Colello said. “My understanding is that Canada treats the company and its patents as a bit of a crown jewel and would not rule lightly on a takeover.”

BlackBerry shares ended the day up 14.1 percent at US$14.90 on the NASDAQ on Monday, while the Toronto-listed shares closed up 13.8 percent at C$15.29.

BlackBerry is hoping the new devices, already on sale in Canada, Britain and more than 20 other countries, will help it win back market share in the US, which was once a stronghold for the smartphone industry pioneer.

The US launch of the new devices has been delayed due to a longer carrier-testing phase in the country. AT&T said pre-sales of the devices were to begin yesterday.

As expected, AT&T said it would sell the devices for US$199.99 with a two-year contract. T-Mobile USA on Friday said it planned to start selling the BlackBerry Z10 to its business customers in the US on Monday.

Verizon Inc, the biggest US wireless carrier, has yet to say when it will start selling the Z10. The Z10 and the soon-to-be-launched Q10, which will come with BlackBerry’s traditional physical keyboard, are powered by the new BlackBerry 10, or BB10 operating system.

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