September 11, 2014 / 3:24 PM / 3 years ago

UPDATE 1-BlackBerry buys UK mobile technology start-up Movirtu

(Recasts, adds executive comments)

By Euan Rocha and Alina Selyukh

TORONTO/LAS VEGAS, Sept 11 (Reuters) - BlackBerry has acquired a U.K-based mobile technology start-up whose software allows users to have multiple phone numbers on the same device, the Canadian tech firm said on Thursday.

The purchase of Movirtu helps BlackBerry ramp up its portfolio of services to cater to the needs of its core base of corporate and government clients. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Movirtu’s virtual SIM technology allows an individual to have both a personal and business number on a single mobile device, with separate billing for voice, data and messaging usage on each number.

This allows employees to switch between work and personal profiles easily without carrying multiple devices or SIM cards.

“Clearly this fits nicely within the strategy we have so far articulated. We are building recurring revenue streams in value-added services and providing more value to enterprises,” the head of BlackBerry’s enterprise unit John Sims said in an interview.

Sims said Movirtu’s technology would allow IT administrators for example to restrict calls and emails to a work number after a particular time, without blocking personal calls or emails to the same device.

BlackBerry, which dominated the smartphone market in its infancy, has been reshaping itself over the course of the last year as its devices have lost ground to Apple’s iPhone and a slew of rival devices powered by Google’s Android operating system.

Under the leadership of its new chief executive John Chen, the company has moved rapidly to stabilize itself by selling certain assets, partnering to make its manufacturing and supply chain more efficient, and raising cash via the sale of its real estate holdings.

Chen, a well-regarded turnaround artist in the tech sector, intends to remain a competitor in the smartphone arena, but is focused on reshaping the company to build on its core strengths in areas like mobile data security and mobile device management.

The company has been making small acquisitions in the last few months, as it looks to build out its offerings for so-called enterprise clients made up primarily by large corporations and government agencies that are in many cases still major users of Blackberry devices.

In July, it announced it was buying Secusmart, a privately held German firm that specializes in voice and data encryption, in an attempt to burnish its credentials with security-conscious clients like government agencies.

Sims, who spoke with Reuters at an industry conference in Las Vegas, sees mobile device management as a commoditized space with rivals like Good Technology and AirWatch jumping into the fray. He stressed though, that BlackBerry plans to stay ahead of the game by offering value-added services like the ones acquired via the Movirtu and Secusmart deals. (Reporting by Euan Rocha and Alina Selyukh; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Chris Reese)

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