Will RIM Find a Buyer?

by Harry Wang | Mar. 30, 2012

About a year ago, I suggested that Microsoft could benefit from buying up RIM. That was when RIM was still a $25 billion company in market cap, its core business had yet to deteriorated to the current bad shape, and the prime asset that Microsoft would salivate most—RIM’s enterprise business—just felt the impact of BYOD.

Fast forward to a year later, RIM is now a $7 billion company in market cap; it missed its own financial guidance five quarters in a row, and almost all the major decision makers a year ago have now gone. Is RIM still a good takeover target—and by whom?

In my opinion, today’s RIM is unlikely to be sold in one piece. Its handset business is such a value destructor that not many suitors will be interested unless it is a fire sale. RIM is like Palm five years ago, even BB10 is unlikely to reverse the course for RIM just like WebOS didn’t help Palm’s revival. Companies like Microsoft perhaps feel fortunate that they didn’t make the bid for the whole company a year ago, and now they can come back to cherry-pick at an 80%-off price.

Will RIM find a buyer this time? A year ago, it was two former CEOs’ ego and near-sightedness stood in the way. A year later, if the new CEO still bundles handset business with its enterprise business, few buyers will surface. Even if there are buyers, the hardware business is likely to be spun off quickly after acquisition. Will RIM remain independent? Only if they are willing to take quick actions to sever value destructive businesses. In any fashion, RIM will become a much smaller, hopefully better, company 12 months from now.

Tags: mobile, retail

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