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Will BlackBerry be cherrypicked, or bought by its daddies?

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BlackBerry cofounders Mike Lazaridis and Douglas Fregin have indicated that they are considering a bid to buy the struggling smartphone maker, even as analysts say that selling the company off in pieces may be a better deal for all concerned.

The two men made their intentions known in a regulatory filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday, in which they said they were exploring "a potential joint bid to acquire the Shares of the Issuer that they do not currently own."

According to the filing, Lazaridis and Fregin each currently own around 8 per cent of BlackBerry's outstanding shares, and they have hired Goldman Sachs and Centerview Partners to help them review their options for acquiring the rest.

The disclosure comes as investors grow ever more skeptical that Fairfax Holdings will be able to raise enough funds for its proposed $4.7bn buyout of the Canadian firm.

A number of companies have also expressed interest in BlackBerry, including Cisco, Google, LG, Samsung, and SAP. But according to sources cited by Bloomberg on Thursday, those suitors are only interested in parts of the company, and analysts agreed that BlackBerry is probably worth more in pieces than as a whole.

BlackBerry's patent portfolio, on its own, may be worth anywhere from $2bn to $3bn, analysts say, while its enterprise network could be worth between $550m and $1.1bn to a rival wireless carrier. The company is also sitting on around $2.6bn in cash.

One part of BlackBerry that prospective buyers probably won't be interested in, however, is its lossmaking smartphone business. BlackBerry took a $934m charge on unsold inventory of its Z10 handsets in September, and its new owners will be unlikely to risk a repeat performance. One analyst even told Bloomberg that the smartphone division "isn't considered an asset."

Lazaridis and Fregin have not said whether they would keep BlackBerry whole or sell off its parts, should they manage to raise a successful buyout bid.

BlackBerry shareholders, however, seemed encouraged by the idea of its cofounders taking control of the company. BlackBerry's stock price was up by around 1 per cent on the news, to $8.20 per share, giving it a total market capitalization of $4.21bn. ®

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