Report: BlackBerry hopes to wrap up sales process by November

BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) hopes to conclude a sale of the company by November, according to a Wall Street Journal report, an indication that an auction of the company is the most likely "strategic alternative" that the company's board has been exploring.

The report, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, said that the beleaguered smartphone maker has held preliminary talks with parties interested in buying part or all of the company and has trimmed its list of potential bidders, with a sales process expected to start soon.

The report also comes days after Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) announced it will pay around $7.2 billion for Nokia's (NYSE:NOK) handset business, a move many analysts have seen as cementing Microsoft's Windows Phone as a the third leading smartphone platform, albeit a distant third behind Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android and Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS. The Microsoft/Nokia deal "further relegates [BlackBerry] to the also-ran bin," MKM Partners analysts said in a note.

A BlackBerry spokeswoman declined to comment.

The WSJ report went on to note that it is unclear if any serious bids will come up. However, BlackBerry's board is pushing for a quick sales process, the report said.

BlackBerry hoped that its new, overhauled BlackBerry 10 operating system would reignite sales of the company's smartphones, but research firms have continued to chart the company's sliding smartphone market share, both around the world and in the U.S. market.

Likely in response to sluggish sales, in late August the company's board formed a special committee to explore "strategic alternatives to enhance value and increase scale in order to accelerate BlackBerry 10 deployment." The possibilities for the company include joint ventures, strategic partnerships or alliances or a sale of BlackBerry, the company said. The committee is composed of Chairwoman Barbara Stymiest, CEO Thorsten Heins and directors Richard Lynch and Bert Nordberg, and is chaired by director Timothy Dattels.

It's also unclear which companies might try to bid for BlackBerry. Analysts have said there are no clear buyers at this point, even among Chinese handset makers such as Lenovo or Huawei. If an outright acquisition appears unlikely, one possibility that has continued to engender speculation is that BlackBerry could go private.

In an interview last week with the Journal, Nordberg said BlackBerry can survive as a "niche company" in smartphones. However, he said there are "subsets" that the company should sell. He added that the board knows that the company has invested a great deal of time and money in its enterprise business, hardware functionality and device security, but he said it might be a challenge to compete with larger ecosystems like those from Apple and Google.

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)

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