UPDATE 5-BlackBerry may put itself up for sale

Mon Aug 12, 2013 6:31pm EDT
 
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By Euan Rocha

TORONTO Aug 12 (Reuters) - Struggling smartphone maker BlackBerry Ltd is weighing options that could include an outright sale, it said on Monday, and its largest shareholder is stepping down from its board to avoid any possible conflict of interest.

BlackBerry, which pioneered mobile email with its first smartphones and email pagers, said on Monday it had set up a committee to review its options, sparking a debate over whether Canada's one-time crown jewel is more valuable as a whole or snapped up piece by piece by competitors or private investors.

The company said Prem Watsa, whose Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd is BlackBerry's biggest shareholder, was leaving the board as BlackBerry determines its next steps.

Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper said Fairfax was talking to industry and private equity players about possibility taking BlackBerry private. Fairfax did not respond to requests for comment.

Other potential buyers of BlackBerry assets, if not the company itself, could include deep-pocketed Canadian pension funds, as well as some of its rivals.

BlackBerry, once a stock market darling, has bled market share to Apple Inc and phones using Google Inc's Android operating system, and its new BlackBerry 10 smartphones have failed to gain traction with consumers.

BlackBerry shares rose more than 10 percent to $10.78 in New York and C$11.13 in Toronto in afternoon trading. But the shares remain well below their levels in June, before the company reported dismal results that included poor sales of the BlackBerry 10 that it viewed as key to a turnaround.   Continued...