Report: RIM looks to hire bankers to explore 'strategic options'

Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) is thinking of hiring a financial adviser to help it explore "strategic options" for the company, according to a Bloomberg report.

The report, which cited four unnamed sources familiar with the matter, said a decision on hiring the banker could be made within the next few days, and that RIM would prefer to license its BlackBerry software as its first option before pursuing a strategic investment. At this point, RIM does not plan on selling itself, the report said.

A RIM spokeswoman declined to comment.

The exploration of strategic options should not come as a surprise. RIM said late last month it was "undertaking a comprehensive review of strategic opportunities including partnerships and joint ventures, licensing and other ways to leverage RIM's assets." RIM CEO Thorsten Heins said the company will consider all options, including partnering with other companies, licensing its BlackBerry 10 platform to other manufacturers, or engaging with ODMs to build new BlackBerry products.

"It's not a surprise. They should have done it a while ago," Peter Misek, an analyst at Jefferies and Company, told the Toronto Star.

RIM's stated strategic priority is the launch later this year of BlackBerry 10, its new smartphone operating system, which the company hopes will help reverse its declining fortunes. RIM's U.S. sales fell by more than half in the last quarter and the company's North American market share has dwindled. Meanwhile, speculation has swirled about what other opportunities the company might pursue. The Bloomberg report said that Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Samsung might be among the most interested parties if RIM decides to wring more value out of its messaging business or its patent portfolio.

And RIM has been feeling out a number of strategic options. According to a Reuters report last week, RIM's former co-CEO Jim Balsillie pushed for a potentially groundbreaking shift in the company's strategy--one where RIM would provide inexpensive data and texting services to Android phones and iPhones using its proprietary network. According to the article, this occurred before Heins took over as CEO and refocused the company on its BlackBerry 10 platform.

The Reuters report, which cited two unnamed sources with knowledge of the plans, said Balsillie's efforts caused friction at the company, eventually leading to Balsillie's ouster. Balsillie resigned as a director of RIM's board late last month, after stepping down as co-CEO earlier this year.

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Toronto Star article

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