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BlackBerry Ltd (BBRY) Should Dump Its Handset Business: Analysts

Most analysts are of the view that BlackBerry Ltd BBRY's only hope is to dump its devices and focus only on business software and mobile management.

BlackBerry Ltd (BBRY) (BB) ended its strategic review with no official offers this week, and shares are still falling days after the announcement. Now analysts from numerous firms are calling for the company to dump its handset business and focus on its smaller pieces, which have greater potential for becoming profitable.

Blackberry Q10

Nomura analyst Stuart Jeffrey told Bloomberg that there is no reason to own BlackBerry shares as long as the company keeps selling handsets below cost and continues to post declines in subscribers and revenue. Most analysts agree with that view.

BlackBerry receives a cash infusion

Instead of making its buyout offer official, Fairfax Financial decided to give BlackBerry Ltd (BBRY) (BB) a cash infusion. The company has been burning through its cash at a rate that would empty its pockets by the end of next year. But will a cash infusion really make much difference? Probably not—unless BlackBerry dumps its devices division.

MKM Partners analyst Michael Genovese noted that the cash is just a temporary fix and called it "more symbolic than significant" when speaking with Bloomberg. He doesn't give the company any credit for cash on its balance sheet because they assume that cash will be burned eventually.

Analysts at Paradigm Capital are among those who say BlackBerry should exit the devices industry. Analyst Gabriel Leung has a Hold rating on the company and has lowered his target price for its stock from $10.50 to $7 per share. He believes one of the many difficult decisions which will be ahead for BlackBerry Ltd (BBRY) (BB) is getting rid of its unprofitable hardware business. Of course restructuring will also likely be part of the equation.

Highlighting BlackBerry's strengths

Leung's biggest concern is that uncertainty about BlackBerry's future will cause the company's devices sales to plummet even further. He says the best plan is to either divest or completely shut down Blackberry's devices business and focus more on the enterprise side of business where BlackBerry is strong. The analyst highlights its mobile device management platform and NOC infrastructure as being key areas of strength for BlackBerry.

He also notes BlackBerry Messenger has been going strong since the company rolled it out to iOS and Android devices. In addition, the company has a strong mobile patent portfolio.

Where BlackBerry could shift its focus

Analysts at other firms also say security and software are where BlackBerry Ltd (BBRY) (BB) could actually make the most money. Bloomberg's Tara Lachapelle, Brooke Sutherland and Hugo Miller have collected the views of analysts from several other firms.

Analysts at William Blair & Co. note that although BlackBerry's business software is actually the smallest chunk of its business, it provides the biggest opportunity. They note that software makers have a median revenue multiple of approximately 3.3, compared with the .17 times sales which Fairfax offered for BlackBerry.

The "best of the worst options" for BlackBerry

William Blair analyst Anil Doradla told Bloomberg that exiting the devices business is the best of all the worst options BlackBerry Ltd (BBRY) (BB) has right now. John Chen, BlackBerry's new interim CEO, said he wouldn't rule out shutting down the handset business. However, the fate of the division is still very much up in the air.

Chen was asked which of the company's assets were the strongest, and like William Blair analysts, he said BlackBerry's software and security offerings were the strongest. He included the company's mobile device management software, encryption software, patents and BBM.

BlackBerry's device management

IDC analyst Ramon Llamas told Bloomberg that device management is "a huge opportunity" for BlackBerry Ltd (BBRY) (BB) and that it would make sense because of Chen's software background. He called the company's security software "the gold standard" and said Chen could really focus on that aspect of the company to help turn things around.

Jefferies analyst Peter Misek agrees that software is the way to go for BlackBerry. He noted that Chen has "a herculean task" ahead of him in turning the struggling company around.

-By Michelle Jones

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