Canadian industry minister quizzes firm’s boss
Growing speculation that Research in Motion [RIM] might be subject to a takeover has spurred the Canadian government into possibly exercising a veto, it has emerged. Industry Minister Christian Paradis discussed the matter with RIM’s CEO Thorsten Heins in March, soon after he was appointed. Freedom of information correspondence, although heavily redacted, reveal the Canadian government was concerned over how the loss of thousands of RIM jobs and its collapsing stock price might impact the national economy – especially if there was a foreign takeover. The industry minister’s department has the final word on every major takeover of Canadian assets by a foreign entities and in the past has blocked several deals, including BHP Billiton’s $39 billion bid for fertilizer maker Potash Corp.The internal documents, seen by news agency Reuters, show that aides to Paradis were closely tracking reports of a possible bid for RIM.
But in details of a phone call with the embattled BlackBerry maker’s CEO, the government minister gives no indication of if his department would block any foreign attempt to buy the company.
Instead he tells him, “I examine proposed investments on a case-by-case basis and make my decisions based on the facts and merits of each proposed investment…”
Canadian law requires any such takeovers to bring a net benefit to the country, though sources close to RIM suggest discussions about a foreign takeover were not instigated by Heins.
RIM’s impact on Canada’s economy centres mainly around its Waterloo, Ontario home base where it is the largest employer, though Paradis officials note in their memos that very few Canadian technology firms supply RIM.
Externally however RIM – with its vast library of patents and much-awaited BB10 OS due early next year – could be of strategic value to firms like Microsoft which needs a bridgehead into smartphones.
Korean manufacturer, Samsung, has also been rumoured to be interested in either licensing the new op or even buying RIM outright – something Samsung was quick to deny last week. (See here).
RIM declined to comment on the conversation between Heins and Paradis.