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BlackBerry shares extend decline; company cancels planned conference call


 

TORONTO – BlackBerry (TSX:BB) has decided to cancel a conference call and webcast that had been scheduled for Friday after the release of its second-quarter financial results, which the company has already telegraphed will be dismal.

The announcement by the struggling smartphone maker came after the close of markets Wednesday when BlackBerry’s already beaten down shares fell another six per cent as investors weighed the likelihood of a highly conditional takeover offer from Fairfax Financial (TSX:FFH), one of BlackBerry’s largest shareholders.

In a statement, the Waterloo, Ont.,-based concern said only that it decided to cancel the conference call “in light of the letter of intent agreement between BlackBerry and Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd.”

Last week, the company, which reports in U.S. dollars, said it would likely post a loss of between US$950 million and US$995 million for its fiscal second quarter. It also projected US$1.6 billion in sales, far short of analyst expectations of about US$3 billion.

A plan to cut about 40 per cent of its global workforce, about 4,500 jobs, is also underway.

With few surprises expected in the financial report, attention was expected to turn Friday to comments from chief executive Thorsten Heins about the quarter and where the company could be headed in the coming months.

However, it was unclear Wednesday what commentary might accompany the earnings report or whether top executives might otherwise be available for comment.

“The company will publish further details regarding its second-quarter results in the management’s discussion and analysis and consolidated financial statements, to be filed next week,” the announcement said.

On Monday, Fairfax (TSX:FFH) proposed a tentative agreement to take the company private with a consortium of unnamed financiers for $9 per share.

The letter of intent values BlackBerry at US$4.7 billion, but allows Fairfax to walk away from the offer if it is dissatisfied with a number of conditions.

Shares in the smartphone maker pulled back 52 cents to close at $8.26 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Wednesday, extending a downwards shift that gained momentum earlier this week. The last time BlackBerry shares closed lower was on Oct. 31, when they ended at $7.88.

In New York, the company’s stock (Nasdaq:BBRY) lost more than six per cent on Wednesday, sliding to US$8.

The share pullback suggests that BlackBerry investors are losing confidence that a solid Fairfax deal will materialize.

However, the head of Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. said Wednesday he has every intention of completing the acquisition.

Fairfax Chief Executive Prem Watsa told The Associated Press his firm is not in the business of making an offer and then walking away or redoing the deal.

“We’ve got a track record of 28 years of completing what we’ve done. We’ve never re-negotiated,” Watsa said.

“We thought long and hard before we offered $9 dollars a share and we’re not in the business of offering a number and at the last minute changing the figure. Over 28 years our reputation is stellar on that front. We just don’t do that.”

A report in the Globe and Mail said that Fairfax was seeking more than US$1 billion from other investors to help fund a takeover of BlackBerry, but that the Toronto-based investment firm still has a long way before it gains the support it needs.

The Globe, citing unidentified sources, said that as of Tuesday only one pension fund was seriously considering joining the Fairfax-led consortium — the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan, one of Canada’s largest institutional investors.

The pension plan has declined to comment on any reports that link it to deals before they’re announced.

The Globe report says Fairfax is pitching a deal that would be financed with $3 billion of bank loans, $1 billion of equity from institutions and Fairfax’s current 10 per cent stake in BlackBerry, worth about $470 million.

That tentative bid could become more attractive as BlackBerry continues to lose value on stock markets. Since the announcement, when shares of the company briefly spiked, its stock has fallen nearly 11 per cent.

Some analysts expected the Fairfax offer to drive BlackBerry’s share price higher — or at least keep it steady — on the expectation that either other bidders could emerge or the Fairfax deal would move forward. So far those hopes have been dashed.

“Shareholders should be very happy,” wrote National Bank analyst Kris Thompson in a recent note.

“It’s still a long shot that new owners can turn the company around, so shareholders should take the money and run.”

-With files from The Associated Press


 
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