BlackBerry Would Accept a WhatsApp-esque Offer for BBM

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jdlasica/

BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) CEO John Chen told CNBC in an exclusive interview that if someone were to offer him a huge sum for BlackBerry Messenger, he would take the cash. “I work for the shareholder. Standard answer. If someone comes to me with $19 billion, I would definitely sell it. I would recommend to the board to take it,” Chen said.

The CEO was asked about BlackBerry’s BBM service on the heels of Facebook’s (NASDAQ:FB) $19 billion purchase of popular messaging platform WhatsApp, announced last week. WhatsApp currently has 450 million monthly active users and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that the service is on track to reach 1 billion users in the near future.

The $19 billion scenario was just a hypothetical, as based on WhatsApp’s valuation, BBM would cost about $3.4 billion, according to CNBC. Chen said that he would rather focus on growing BBM as a part of BlackBerry than sell it, although he wouldn’t be able to turn down as large an offer that Facebook just shelled out for WhatsApp. “I don’t look at it that way. I know there’s a lot of value in messaging businesses. … I think the right thing to do is expand that and make it as big as possible and then I worry about the valuation later,” Chen told CNBC.

The news of the WhatsApp deal has made more people hopeful about BlackBerry’s prospects, as BBM is still widely used. The news about Facebook’s buy of WhatsApp was rumored to have a positive impact on the valuation of BlackBerry because of its BBM feature, but analysts still aren’t completely sure how the messaging service should be valued.

Chen took the helm of BlackBerry in November, after the company made the surprise decision to abandon plans to sell itself. The new chief executive has instated a turnaround plan that will change BlackBerry from a consumer smartphone maker into a company more focused on serving the needs of companies and businesspeople. Chen has restructured the company into new operating units that bring its remaining strengths to the forefront of its operations: Enterprise Services, Messaging, QNX Embedded business, and the Devices business.

Recent reports have suggested that Detroit automaker Ford (NYSE:F) is considering switching from Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) platform to BlackBerry’s QNX. The Detroit News reported that Ford is poised to quit using Microsoft’s SYNC system, turning instead to the BlackBerry QNX operating system known for fewer glitches. Top-shelf automakers from Audi (VLKAY.PK) to BMW (BMAXY.PK) use QNX in their cars now, which has made automakers throughout the industry take notice. Infotainment systems in cars are considered to be one of the next major frontiers for mobile technology, so a deal with Ford would be a positive step forward for BlackBerry’s technology and hopes for a successful turnaround.

Some believe that the company has the potential to turn itself around by shifting its focus to enterprise and business customers and away from consumers, but others remain skeptical that BlackBerry can gain a foothold in a market dominated by Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Samsung (SSNLF.PK).

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