According to a report on Bloomberg, Research In Motion has hired bankers to “weigh strategic options”, as they consider hiring one Canadian bank and one global bank. The report did not detail the reason for hiring bankers, but RIM’s stocks rose 4% on the news, which may suggest investors feel RIM is readying for a sale.
During the latest earnings call, RIM’s CEO, Thorsten Heins, did note that the company would “explore all options”. Is RIM really ready to sell itself despite BlackBerry 10 having not even being released yet? So far we’ve heard strong rumors of interest from Samsung and even Microsoft. Business Insider has compiled a list of 11 companies they feel could be interested in purchasing RIM:
Samsung, HTC, LG, Motorola (Google), or Nokia: All of these smartphone makers are struggling for dominance in a fragmented market with low profit margins. In markets with low profit margins, especially “platform” markets like smartphones, market-share is a competitive advantage. All of these companies might look at RIM’s meaningful but dwindling share of the global smartphone market and conclude that it made sense to own.
Microsoft: Microsoft is about to throw a Hail Mary pass in the mobile market in the form of the new Windows Phone 7. Microsoft is nowhere in mobile. Owning RIM would not give Microsoft a commanding position in the market, by any means, but it would put it somewhere in the market. Also, RIM is strong in the enterprise, which is where Microsoft is strong. The combination of Microsoft and RIM might be able to argue persuasively that they’re a better choice for corporations than Apple or Android.
Facebook. Go ahead and laugh. Facebook’s working on its own Facebook phone. It needs this because Apple and Google currently control the gateways with which hundreds of millions (soon to be billions) of Internet users will access Facebook. Facebook is also about to have a market capitalization of ~$100 billion. Facebook might conclude that RIM’s expertise and distribution would be nice things to own.
Amazon. Amazon already makes its own tablet–the Kindle Fire. Lots of people think Amazon will soon make its own smartphones. Amazon doesn’t care about building the state-of-the-art tablets. It just wants to make affordable tablets and smartphones aimed at the mass consumer market, gadgets that consumers can use to buy stuff from Amazon. Like any other acquirer, Amazon might want to blow up RIM’s proprietary platform and replace it with Android or Windows, but RIM’s gadget expertise and distribution expertise might be helpful.
Dell, HP, Acer, and other PC manufacturers who are getting absolutely clobbered because they’re not making hit smartphones and tablets. All of these companies might view RIM as a way of leap-frogging into these businesses.
Intel. Intel has announced that it is going to make smartphones (in fact, it has already made some). Intel has pots and pots of cash and is hunting around for things to spend it on. We think Intel would be nuts to go into the making-smartphones-and-tablets business, but Intel apparently doesn’t think so. So Intel might also buy RIM.
Why do you think RIM hired bankers? Is it to sell part of RIM or all of the company? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.