BlackBerry signs letter of intent to be sold in $4.7 billion deal

BlackBerry Ltd. is getting a much-needed lifeline. The Canadian smartphone maker said Monday it had struck a deal to be bought for $4.7 billion.

The company said it had signed a letter of intent with a consortium led by Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd., which will take the smartphone maker private.

“We believe this transaction will open an exciting new private chapter for BlackBerry, its customers, carriers and employees,” Prem Watsa, chairman and chief executive of Fairfax, said in a statement. “We can deliver immediate value to shareholders, while we 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.”

Under the terms of the tentative deal, BlackBerry shareholders would receive $9 in cash for each share they hold.

Fairfax owns about 10 percent of BlackBerry’s common shares and plans to contribute those shares into the transaction, BlackBerry said.

BlackBerry’s board of directors has approved the terms subject to “a number of conditions,” including due diligence, negotiation and execution of a definitive agreement, and customary regulatory approvals.

Diligence is expected to be completed by Nov. 4, and the companies plan to have a final deal in place by then.

In the interim, BlackBerry is “permitted to actively solicit, receive, evaluate and potentially enter into negotiations with parties that offer alternative proposals,” the company said, meaning a higher bid from a different potential buyer could emerge.

“The special committee is seeking the best available outcome for the company’s constituents, including for shareholders,” said Barbara Stymiest, chair of BlackBerry’s board of directors. “Importantly, the go-shop process provides an opportunity to determine if there are alternatives superior to the present proposal from the Fairfax consortium.”

Last month, BlackBerry announced that it had formed a special committee to weigh strategic alternatives, including putting itself up for sale. After the Canadian device maker said in June that it lost $84 million in its most recent fiscal quarter and failed to gain enough traction with its new BlackBerry 10 smartphones, many tech analysts said the company’s days as a public stand-alone company were numbered.

The five-member special committee, which includes Chief Executive Thorsten Heins, said in a statement that options included “possible joint ventures, strategic partnerships or alliances, a sale of the company or other possible transactions.”

Fairfax is a financial services holding company based in Toronto.

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