TORONTO - BlackBerry shares crept up for the third consecutive day as investors responded to reports that the smartphone maker wants to launch an auction process sooner rather than later.
The Waterloo, Ont.-based company's stock rose 32 cents to close at $11.60 on Thursday at the Toronto Stock Exchange.
BlackBerry's list of potential buyers has whittled down over the past week as Microsoft announced plans to buy Nokia Corp.'s handset division for US$7.17 billion.
Chinese technology company Huawei also appeared uninterested after board member Chen Lifang told reporters in London that the company isn't shopping around for acquisition targets, but instead plans to focus on its existing operations.
A report from the Wall Street Journal says BlackBerry has already narrowed the list of potential bidders, a logical next step after announcing last month that it would explore several "strategic alternatives'' including its possible sale.
The Journal cited unnamed sources as saying that an auction process could be completed as early as November.
BlackBerry has kept its options open since last year when it hired two adviser firms to search for ways to shore up cash. Earlier this summer it broadened those options when it said it formed a special committee to consider strategic alternatives, including its sale.
Another option would be to take BlackBerry private, though it would need to find the support of enough investors to make that possible.
One of the first places BlackBerry could turn for partnership opportunities would be major domestic pension operators like the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and the Ontario Municipal Employees' Retirement System.
BlackBerry has struggled to maintain its marketshare in recent years as Apple's iPhone and devices on the Android operating system became the most popular devices in stores.
After several delays, the company launched a new line of phones earlier this year, which included its hyped BlackBerry Z10 touchscreen and BlackBerry Q10 keypad devices. The phones have failed to catch on with consumers, and BlackBerry's share of the smartphone market has dropped to 2.7 per cent, according to research firm IDC.
Analyst have also returned to their increasingly dismal view of the company's prospects in recent weeks.
Canaccord Genuity analyst Michael Walkley said Thursday that his latest global survey of retailers indicates "very weak" sales of the new BlackBerry phones, and "sharply declining sales" of older BlackBerry devices.
The flagging interest has led to Walkley pulling back estimates for how many BlackBerrys are shipped to stores in the company's fiscal 2014 financial year. He now expects 24.1 million units to be sent to retailers, which is 2.6 million fewer units than his previous estimate.
In a report, Walkley details estimates for the company's assets at about $4.1 billion, which is less than a year ago, as the company continues to spend cash to promote its BlackBerry 10 operating system while other assets begin to lose their core value.
"Given our belief BlackBerry’s hardware business will struggle to return to profitability given increasing smartphone competition, we struggle to assign any value to the hardware business," he wrote in a note.
"The most logical acquirer of BlackBerry would likely attempt to transition BlackBerry's subscriber base to their own competing smartphone products or ecosystem."
At the company's annual meeting in July, chief executive Thorsten Heins unveiled a three-stage plan to return to profitability. It included pushing ahead with new products yet to be unveiled, opening the BlackBerry Messenger service to other phones and focusing on corporate customers.
BlackBerry is expected to unveil its first "phablet" in the coming weeks, though the company hasn't made anything official. The device would serve as a midpoint between a smartphone and a tablet.
Alicia Keys Is BlackBerry's Mercenary
At the BlackBerry 10 launch event, CEO Thorsten Heins introduced singer Alicia Keys as the company's new global creative director. Sure, Keys is a familiar and likable face to hawk your product -- but how has writing "Girl On Fire" prepared her for a creative director role? Adding to the awkward is that she's a <a href="http://gizmodo.com/5980200/blackberry-spokesperson-alicia-keys-tweets-from-her-iphone">prolific Twitter user from her iPhone</a> and Instagram's quite a bit, a program which isn't available on BlackBerry's new operating system yet. She claimed at the event that she'd been lured back into the BlackBerry fold by the new phones.
A Gimmicky Hair Cut, Less Cracking On CrackBerry.com
Kevin Michaluk, owner of the premier BlackBerry fansite and blog "CrackBerry" had promised to not cut his hair until the release of BlackBerry 10. Considering there were a <a href="http://www.sfgate.com/business/technology/article/A-look-at-RIM-s-much-delayed-BlackBerry-10-4236058.php">few delays along the way</a>, Michaluk had a nice batch of lettuce going. Though a nice gesture of his dedication, the reaction in house was timid. <a href="http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/crackberry.com">Pageviews for Crackberry.com</a> have seen a steady dip.
Viral Marketing Fail
In an effort to build hype for the announcement of BlackBerry's new operating system and phones, the company released <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=MiSzaWxRUSk" target="_hplink">this video</a> one day before the launch. The video involved a cable controlled jump with Alec Saunders, BlackBerry's VP of developer relations, and BlackBerry exec Marty Mallick. During the jump Mallick lets out a barely enthusiastic "BlackBerry 10 ruleeesssss!" The video only had 6,000 views prior to the launch event.
RIM Is Now.. BlackBerry! But Who Cares?
During the BlackBerry 10 launch event, it was revealed that Research In Motion or RIM, BlackBerry's creator, would be <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/30/rim-changing-name-to-blackberry_n_2581969.html?utm_hp_ref=technology">changing its name</a> to...BlackBerry. More than anything this seems to signal that the BlackBerry is all or nothing for what was formerly RIM -- they have nothing to fall back on.
Many Twitter users were quick to point out <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=blackberry%20palm&src=typd">the launch of BlackBerry 10 to another doomed launch</a>, that of the the Palm Pre for Palm. The company announced the new phone and OS in January 2009, only to be <a href="http://money.cnn.com/2010/04/28/technology/hp_palm/index.htm">scooped up by Hewlett Packard in April 2010</a>.