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BlackBerry shares soar as company explores 'strategic alternatives'

CEO Thorsten Heins with the BlackBerry 10 in January.
Getty Images
CEO Thorsten Heins with the BlackBerry 10 in January.

Canadian smartphone maker BlackBerry has set up a committee to explore strategic alternatives, including joint ventures, partnerships or a sale of the company, Blackberry said on Monday.

Shares traded more than 7 percent higher in the pre-market.

Former Goldman Sachs executive Timothy Dattels, a BlackBerry board member, will chair the new committee, which will also include Blackberry Chief Executive Thorsten Heins.

"Given the importance and strength of our technology, and the evolving industry and competitive landscape, we believe that now is the right time to explore strategic alternatives," Dattels said in a statement.

(Read more: Apple expected to show next iPhone on Sept. 10)

BlackBerry pioneered on-your-hip email with its first smart phones and email pagers. But it has struggled to compete against the likes of Apple Inc and against phones using Google Inc's Android operating system. Its new BlackBerry 10 smartphones have failed to gain traction in a competitive market.

Reuters last week quoted sources familiar with the situation as saying BlackBerry was warming up to the possibility of going private. The sources said Heins and the company's board were increasingly coming around to the idea that taking BlackBerry private would give them breathing room to fix the company's problems out of the public eye.

Dattels is a senior partner at private equity firm TPG Capital and a former top investment banker at Goldman Sachs . His appointment to BlackBerry's board last year sparked a flurry of speculation that the company might consider a leveraged buyout or going private.

Dattels' nomination to the board came in June 2012, shortly after BlackBerry hired JPMorgan and RBC Capital Markets to help it evaluate strategies, including a possible overhaul of its business model, as well as other moves, such as expanding the BlackBerry platform through partnerships and licensing deals.

Fairfax Financial Chairman and Chief Executive Prem Watsa said on Monday that he would resign from the BlackBerry board due to potential conflicts of interest. Watsa said Fairfax has "no current intention" of selling its Blackberry shares.

—By Reuters

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