Facebook Inc. has spoken with BlackBerry executives in California about a potential takeover that could benefit both the struggling smartphone company and Facebook, who could use using BlackBerry’s assets to sell smartphones of their own.
Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg has publicly denied wanting to build his own smartphone, and although it’s still unclear whether Facebook is interested in placing a bid, BlackBerry is an attractive investment because of its assets: $2.6 billion and no debt. The company also has patents valued between $1 and $3 billion, consisting of exclusive rights to technologies that other smartphone makers don’t have. BlackBerry has 70 million subscribers and more than 80 million people use their instant messaging service, BBM.
However, things aren’t perfect at BlackBerry, either. In August, it was announced that the Waterloo, Ontario company would be put up for sale; 4,500 jobs were cut this year, including that of its former CEO, Thorsten Heins. BlackBerry declined Fairfax Financial Holdings’ bid to take over the company for $4.7 billion, but Fairfax later invested $1 billion in the company.
BlackBerry’s future lies in the hands of John Chen, the executive chairman and interim CEO. Chen will receive a $1-million annual salary and a performance bonus of $2 million. Chen’s real chance to make money is 13 million restricted BlackBerry shares, worth about $84 million. These shares can only be exercised and sold for cash once the share price is $20, compared to the low of $6.50 as reported by the Globe and Mail on October 30. Chen will have to stick around for three years to receive 25% of those shares, four years for the next 25%, and a full five years for the remaining 50%.