BlackBerry hemorrhages red ink, but Foxconn saves its bacon
BlackBerry struck a five-year deal with Asian mobile manufacturing giant Foxconn, the beleaguered smartphone maker announced Friday, sending its stock on a monster rally despite another bad earnings report.
BlackBerry reported a massive $4.4 billion write-down on unsold inventory in its fiscal third quarter--including on the BlackBerry 10 device it hoped would lead to its salvation. The news initially sent Blackberry stock lower in premarket trading, but its share price was up by more than 13 percent in the afternoon as investors absorbed the news. (Click here for the latest price.)
In a sign that BlackBerry isn't yet prepared to give up on the consumer market, it struck a five-year partnership with Foxconn—the Taiwan-based manufacturer that is the linchpin of Apple's electronics building efforts. According to BlackBerry, Foxconn will help the battered company develop consumer-focused smartphones for Indonesia, as well as "other fast-growing markets" next year.
"The big thing is they are committed to the handsets," Kevin Michaluk, editor-in-chief of BlackBerry loyalist hub Crackberry.com, told CNBC in an interview. "Blackberry always had trouble making money on handsets. It's a part of the business they've never been great at but it's an integral part of the business."
The tie-up with Foxconn means "we will see BlackBarry hardware for years to come," Michaluk added.
By late morning, more than 48.9 million BlackBerry shares had been traded, more than triple its 30-day average volume of 13.6 million. The last time BBRY had gained more than 10 percent in a day was Aug. 12.
Toronto-based BlackBerry is trying to revive its fortunes in a fiercely competitive marketplace that has largely left it for dead. It reported a net loss of $4.4 billion, or $8.37 a share, in the quarter ended Nov. 30. That compares with Wall Street expectations of a quarterly loss excluding items of 44 cents a share on $1.59 billion in revenue, according to a consensus estimate from Thomson Reuters. Revenue for the quarter plunged 24 percent from the previous quarter, to $1.2 billion.
The company is in the midst of a broad reorganization to help it refocus its efforts on enterprise software and security, while helping the company to find a way to profit from the devices bearing its name. BlackBerry touted growth in its enterprise service, as well what it says were more than 40 million new Apple and Samsung smartphone users who migrated to its BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) application.
"With the operational and organizational changes we have announced, BlackBerry has established a clear roadmap that will allow it to target a return to improved financial performance in the coming year," said John Chen, BlackBerry's interim CEO and executive chairman.
"While our Enterprise Services, Messaging and QNX Embedded businesses are already well-positioned to compete in their markets, the most immediate challenge for the company is how to transition the devices operations to a more profitable business model," he added.
That mission, however, may be easier said than done. BlackBerry's market share has dwindled into the single digits, and efforts to rebrand itself in the face of ferocious competition have consistently fallen short. The make-or-break launch of the BlackBerry 10 fell flat with consumers, which forced the company to take a massive write-down on the units and lay off about 4,500 people.
Barely a month at the helm of the troubled company, Chen has his work cut out for him. Some longtime BlackBerry watchers say his first moves—including an executive reshuffle—put him on the right track.
The alliance with Foxconn may help BlackBerry gain a modicum of headway in a fast-growing segment of the mobile market. According to technology analysts, emerging markets are projected to be one of the hottest markets for smartphones in the coming year.
In November, the company jettisoned Thorsten Heins from his perch as chief executive, while simultaneously ending a buyout agreement with Fairfax Financial, opting instead for a $1 billion infusion of cash from a group of investors. Earlier this week, two senior executives in charge of global sales and merger strategy also departed the company.
--By CNBC's Javier E. David.