Personal Tech

BlackBerry grabs trolley for spot of tech shopping

Got cash, must buy

By Andrew Orlowski

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BlackBerry's stock rose to a 2017 high despite widening losses and lower revenues than a year ago. This indicates that against a backdrop of pain from shedding those lovely handset sales, the market is betting the sickly Canadian business has turned a corner.

The books for Q3 of fiscal '18 ended 30 November showed turnover of $226m, down 22 per cent on a year ago, but this was better than investors had forecast. It posted an operating loss of $275m, more than double the $117m loss in the same period of fiscal '17.

The firm, of course, was at pains to point out the bottom line included whacking great charges of $77m relating to debentures and $20m in restructuring charges, amongst other accounting items.

The former hardware giant, which now styles itself as a "cybersecurity software and services company dedicated to securing the enterprise of things," boasted of contract wins including NATO, the US Department of Justice, the Dutch Government and Deutsche Bank.

In the earnings con-call, CEO John Chen pointed out that although Deutsche had dumped the BlackBerry smart handsets in September, it also selected "our endpoint management software" – which he claimed was "a validation that our strategy is working".

The big boss also talked up BlackBerry's embedded software deal with Qualcomm "optimiz[ing] Qualcomm platforms with [BlackBerry's] QNX for all the next-generation connected and autonomous vehicle[s]".

BlackBerry's final years as a device maker were catastrophic, and it switched to a licensing model in 2016, exiting the handset business for good.

One wonder of BlackBerry is that it retained enough cash to make the painful transition from mobile hardware to services. It used the filthy lucre to acquire arch rival Good Technology in 2016.

BlackBerry reported that it has $2.5bn in the bank which, after subtracting the $605m of debt, still leaves a healthy amount of net cash. CEO John Chen said he wanted to use $500m to make strategic acquisitions to boost revenue growth.

The company forecast it would make between $920m and $950m in FY 2018. ®

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