Samsung makes takeover approach to BlackBerry: Sources

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Samsung Electronics recently approached BlackBerry about buying the smartphone maker for as much as US$7.5 billion (S$10 billion) in a play for its patent portfolio, according to a person familiar with the matter and documents seen by Reuters.

South Korea’s Samsung proposed an initial price range of US$13.35 to US$15.49 per share, representing a premium of 38 per cent to 60 per cent over BlackBerry’s current trading price, the source said.

Executives from the two companies, which are working with advisers, met last week to discuss a potential transaction, the source said, asking not to be identified because the conversations are private.

It remains unclear whether BlackBerry, which has regained some of its lost swagger under chief executive John Chen over the past year or so, was open to the approach.

Representatives for the company declined to comment.

News of the meeting, which sent BlackBerry shares up nearly 30 per cent, comes as the smartphone maker looks for renewed growth and for how to regain market share it has lost to Apple, Google and Samsung.

A deal would give Samsung access to BlackBerry’s patents, which the source said would help it take on arch rival Apple .

Any tie up with Samsung would have to have the blessing of Prem Watsa, whose Fairfax Financial Holdings is a major BlackBerry shareholder.

Fairfax helped bankroll a debt recapitalisation that led to Mr Chen’s arrival in November 2013 as CEO of the one-time investor darling that pioneered the smartphone.

BlackBerry launched its long-awaited Classic model on Wednesday, hoping to help win back market share and woo customers still using older devices with a keyboard.

The phone resembles its once popular Bold and Curve handsets.

In the third quarter, revenue at BlackBerry fell to US$793 million from US$1.19 billion a year earlier, falling short of analysts’ expectations of US$931.5 million.

Shares of BlackBerry jumped as much as 30 per cent on heavy volume in afternoon trading at US$29.71 per share in New York.

The offer price would imply an enterprise value of US$6 billion to US$7.5 billion for BlackBerry, assuming conversion of US$1.25 billion of convertible debt, according to the documents.

BlackBerry announced a high-profile security partnership with Samsung in November.

The partnership will wed BlackBerry’s security platform with the South Korean company’s own security software for its Galaxy devices.

Representatives for BlackBerry declined to comment while Samsung and Fairfax could not be immediately reached for comment.