BlackBerry has officially filed a letter of intent with Canadian holding company Fairfax Financial, an offer that could lead to it returning to private ownership. The news follows BlackBerry halting trading on its shares, just as it did before announcing mass layoffs and its retreat from the consumer market last week, and it's not unlike Michael Dell's attempt to take his company private. According to a press release, the deal is valued at around $4.7 billion, with stockholders receiving $9 a share in cash.
As we've heard before, BlackBerry will be focusing on its enterprise market, which remains stronger than its ailing consumer base. This move, according to Fairfax CEO Prem Watsa, will allow BlackBerry to "continue the execution of a long-term strategy in a private company with a focus on delivering superior and secure enterprise solutions to BlackBerry customers around the world." The letter is a preliminary step to the company going private under Fairfax's ownership, but the BlackBerry board can also receive other offers — once again, something that has significantly delayed Dell's plans to go private. These offers would need to be made by November 4th, the point at which BlackBerry and Fairfax expect to have hammered out an agreement.
BlackBerry, formerly RIM, has been in a downward spiral for years, and the company has been open to a buyout since last month. Fairfax is a strong contender: it holds assets of around $31 billion, and Watsa's investment strategy has been compared to that of financial mogul Warren Buffett — Watsa made his fortune by buying stakes in apparently failing companies, then turning them around. Fairfax has long been a major investor in BlackBerry, currently owning around 10 percent of the company. And Watsa has been previously rumored to be interested in taking it over completely, having resigned from its board in August.