But Prem Watsa is also waiting in the wings
Lenovo, the world’s largest PC maker, saw sales of smartphones more than double in the second quarter – again fuelling speculation that it might be poised to buy Canada’s BlackBerry. Though neither Lenovo nor BlackBerry would comment on the speculation, it’s known the Chinese manufacturer particularly values BlackBerry’s vast software and IP portfolio, having already made overtures about buying the troubled Toronto-based firm twice this year . Just a few days ago BlackBerry announced that it had formed a committee to explore future options, including a possible sale.
Meanwhile board director and Canadian tycoon Prem Watsa – dubbed the Warren Buffet of the North – revealed he was stepping down to avoid a conflict of interest.
This was construed as a sign that he too might be considering making an offer for BlackBerry through his investment firm, Fairfax Financial Holdings.
Meanwhile, the time couldn’t be better for Lenovo to make a bid for BlackBerry.
Latest quarterly figures show that, while overall PC sales declined 11 per cent, this was more than offset by soaring sales of smartphones, particularly to Europe, Middle East and Africa.
A 105 per cent increase in sales of smartphones and tablets helped to boost overall revenue by 10 per cent to $8.8 billion.
After the trading update Lenovo’s CEO Yang Yuanqing told Bloomberg that the company intended to be more “proactive” about acquisitions in the future, seeking opportunities “in both the PC and phone areas,” though he declined to name BlackBerry specifically.
What might stall Lenovo in any takeover bid, however, are Canada’s tough laws relating to foreign ownership of the country’s key industries.
Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is already on record as saying that a Lenovo-BlackBerry deal is something the government “would look at carefully”, given the importance of the Toronto manufacturer to the local economy.
*Footnote: China Mobile, the world’s biggest mobile carrier by subscribers, posted a two per cent rise in second-quarter net profit yesterday (15th August 2013), buoyed by an increase in 3G subscribers. Net profit for the April-June quarter came in at 35.2 billion yuan (£3.7 billion), with the company also revealing that it was positive about forging a pact with Apple to sell iPhones, putting it on an equal footing with the rest of China’s mobile operators.