Exclusive: Canada minister was prepped if RIM CEO talked takeover
By Louise Egan and Euan Rocha
OTTAWA/TORONTO (Reuters) - A senior Canadian minister was prepped to discuss foreign investment rules with Research In Motion's new CEO in a March telephone call, mindful of intense takeover speculation that's still swirling around the embattled BlackBerry maker.
Internal documents obtained by Reuters show that aides to the industry minister - who has the power to block foreign takeovers - were closely tracking reports of a possible bid for RIM, a national icon that is now struggling to survive.
Briefing notes for Industry Minister Christian Paradis and other correspondence obtained under access to information legislation showed RIM's falling share price and worsening business profile are clearly on the radar of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government.
But the heavily redacted documents stop short of revealing any particular government bias with regard to a potential bid.
Instead, the minister was urged to tell RIM CEO Thorsten Heins: "I examine proposed investments on a case-by-case basis and make my decisions based on the facts and merits of each proposed investment...". Canadian law requires foreign takeovers to bring a "net benefit" to the country.
Even though Paradis was ready for it, Heins never raised the subject of a possible takeover during the call, a source familiar with the discussion said. The notes advised the minister to address the issue only if Heins raised it.
Their conversation in late March - a few weeks after Heins took the helm at RIM - is the only one the pair have had to date, according to a source familiar with the discussion.
Soon after they spoke, RIM reported a quarterly net loss and its first slump in BlackBerry smartphone shipments for a holiday quarter since 2006. Continued...