By Barry Levine / CIO Today. Updated March 11, 2013.
Sounds like Lenovo is considering a BlackBerry buy-out. A recent comment by the computer maker's chief executive, expressing interest in the beleaguered phone maker, has caused the biggest jump in a month in BlackBerry's share price.
Lenovo CEO Yang Yuanqing told the French financial newspaper Les Echos that such an acquisition "could possibly make sense," adding that first he needed to analyze the market and "understand what exactly the importance of this company is." BlackBerry shares rose 9.7 percent to $14.32 this morning.
In January, Lenovo Chief Financial Officer Wong Mai Ming told Bloomberg BusinessWeek that it was "looking at all opportunities -- RIM and many others," and noted that the computer maker would "have no hesitation" if the right opportunity presented itself.
At the time, Bloomberg also reported that Lenovo had been in discussions with the company, which was then called Research In Motion, or RIM. In late January, it changed its name to match that of its main product line, BlackBerry. Also in January, BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins told a German newspaper that his company was reviewing a number of different strategic directions, including the possibility of selling its hardware unit and licensing its BB10 software. He has not ruled out a sale of the company.
While BlackBerry has been struggling to regain market share in the booming smartphone market with its new BlackBerry 10 platform and devices, Lenovo has the opposite situation. The computer maker has gained market share even as the PC market has declined, and thus could be interested in expanding to other markets that help build on its PC base.
If Lenovo did seek to buy the Canada-based BlackBerry, the purchase would have to receive regulatory approval in Canada and in the U.S., since Lenovo is a Chinese company. It was created in 2005, when IBM sold its PC division to a group of Chinese investors.
It's not yet clear if BlackBerry is gaining the altitude it needs to survive in the harshly competitive smartphone environment, where Samsung and Apple are the dominant manufacturers, and Android and iOS the reigning platforms.
Z10 in Wake of S IV
There have been some signs that BlackBerry's new BB10 touchscreen model, the Z10, is getting a strong response. Last week, for instance, the company reported that more than 100 businesses in the U.K. were testing the devices, which could be a sign that BlackBerry is having some success in retaining or expanding its business base in that country.
Additionally, Heins has said that initial sales in the U.K. were "close to three times our best performance ever for the first week of sales for a BlackBerry smartphone." He has made similar comments about the Canadian launch. But while the company has reported some sellouts in the U.K., India and other countries, there have been reports that supplies of the device have been limited so far, so the sellouts might be the result of poor inventory management.
On Monday, BlackBerry confirmed reports last week that the Z10 will launch in the important U.S. market on March 22 through AT&T. BlackBerry said the phone's release here has been later than in other countries because of more stringent testing requirements by U.S. carriers. The U.S. launch date means that the Z10 will come out a week after the big March 14 launch of Samsung's successor to its hit Galaxy S III smartphone, the Galaxy S IV.