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RIM may sell handset business, according to The Sunday Times

RIM may sell handset business, according to The Sunday Times

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RIM is rumored to be selling off its handset division.

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RIM Blackberry tour
RIM Blackberry tour

The Sunday Times reports today that RIM is considering a plan to split its handset division and messaging network into two separate companies, and will sell off the struggling BlackBerry hardware business. The British paper doesn't cite any sources in the report, but it says that Facebook and Amazon are both "potential buyers." As part of this plan, RIM could keep its enterprise-friendly messaging and data network (including BBM, BIS, and BES) in-house and license them out — a move championed by former co-CEO Jim Balsillie prior to his departure from the company. Alternatively, RIM may sell the network services division, too. The Waterloo-based company has been working with RBC and JP Morgan since earlier this year to conduct a strategic review, and The Sunday Times says the plan is one option drawn up during the process of the review. Another option, short of splitting the company in two, would be to sell a large stake to a corporation like Microsoft.

RIM CEO Thorsten Heins has stood fast to his comments over the past months that the company doesn't want to be bought out, and that it is exploring "opportunities to leverage the BlackBerry platform through partnerships, licensing opportunities and strategic business model alternatives." According to the British paper, RIM's final plan is set to be revealed sometime this summer — which would be well before it launches BlackBerry 10. It's not clear where that would leave the new operating system, the success of which is key to the company's turnaround.

The Canadian company's struggles are nothing new: the phone maker hasn't provided any guidance for its Q1 earnings (which are going to revealed on June 28th), but the CEO has said that it will "likely have an operating loss." Meanwhile, its stock price continues to drop lower and lower, and The Globe and Mail reported last month that part of the turnaround strategy was going to include company-wide layoffs of at least 2,000 employees — 12 percent of its entire workforce. We'll be listening closely to RIM's earnings call this Thursday, but if The Sunday Times is right, the company as we know it may not exist for much longer.

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