Exclusive: Amazon weighed buying RIM but interest cooled

Tue Dec 20, 2011 5:39pm EST
 

By Nadia Damouni

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Research In Motion Ltd has turned down takeover overtures from Amazon.com Inc and other potential buyers because the BlackBerry maker prefers to fix its problems on its own, according to people with knowledge of the situation.

Amazon hired an investment bank this summer to review a potential merger with RIM, but it did not make a formal offer, said one of the sources. It is not clear whether informal discussions between Amazon and RIM ever led to specific price talk, or who else had approached RIM about a takeover.

RIM's board wants co-chief executives Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie to focus on trying to turn around the business through the launch of new phones, better use of assets such as BlackBerry Messaging and restructuring, two sources said. They did not want to be identified as the discussions are private. RIM and Amazon declined to comment.

While RIM could strike technology licensing deals and other kinds of commercial partnerships to boost revenue, an outright sale or joint venture is not on the cards for now, they said.

"They have had approaches from folks who have wanted to have discussions," said one head of technology investment banking at a Wall Street bank. "The issue is it is hard to find a value that makes sense with a falling knife."

RIM's market value has plunged 77 percent in the last 12 months to about $6.8 billion following a series of disappointing quarterly reports, delayed phone launches, weak sales of the PlayBook tablet and other missteps. The shares tumbled last week on weaker-than-expected quarterly results and the announcement of a delay in the launch of the new BlackBerry 10 phones.

Activist shareholder Jaguar Financial Corp has called for a sale of RIM - as a whole or in separate parts, such as the handset business or the patent portfolio.

But RIM's management has told interested parties they do not want to sell or break up the company at this juncture, the sources told Reuters. After last week's news, the board instructed the co-CEOs to set aside any options for a sale, one person briefed on the situation said.   Continued...