BlackBerry may consider exiting handsets, eyes investments

Thu Apr 10, 2014 3:40pm EDT
 
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By Alastair Sharp and Nicola Leske

NEW YORK (Reuters) - BlackBerry Ltd would consider exiting its handset business if it remains unprofitable, its chief executive officer said on Wednesday, as the technology company looks to expand its corporate reach with investments, acquisitions and partnerships.

"If I cannot make money on handsets, I will not be in the handset business," John Chen said in an interview, adding that the time frame for such a decision was short. He would not be more specific, but said it should be possible to make money off shipments of as few as 10 million a year.

At its peak, BlackBerry shipped 52.3 million devices in fiscal 2011, while it recorded revenue on less than 2 million last quarter.

Chen, who took the helm of the struggling company in November, said BlackBerry was also looking to invest in or team up with other companies in regulated industries such as healthcare, and financial and legal services, all of which require highly secure communications.

The chief executive said small acquisitions to strengthen BlackBerry's network security offerings were also possible.

"We are building an engineering team on the service side that is focused on security. We are building an engineering team on the device side that is focused on security. We will do some partnerships and we will probably, potentially do an M&A on security."

He said security had become more important to businesses and government since the revelations about U.S. surveillance made by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

In a wide-ranging interview in New York, Chen acknowledged past management mistakes and said he had a long-term strategy to complement the short-term goals of staying afloat and stemming customer defections.   Continued...

 
Blackberry CEO John Chen poses for a portrait in Toronto March 26, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Blinch