The multi-year-long turnaround being performed by Canadian tech name BlackBerry (BlackBerry Stock Quote, Chart, News TSX:BB) has certainly gotten a lot of press over the years but as the quarters go by more and more doubters are coming out of the woodwork.
Count Brian Madden among them.
The portfolio manager for Goodreid Investment says not only is BlackBerry’s hardware-to-software strategy failing but they’re paying CEO John Chen way too much to lead the company down the wrong path.
“We wouldn’t buy the stock,” says Madden, senior vice president at Goodreid, who spoke to BNN Bloomberg on Tuesday. “This is a real outlier among the technology landscape in Canada and indeed, globally, all of which are mostly all of which is in a primary uptrend.”
“Blackberry is not. It’s in a downtrend,” said Madden.
BB has been on a dismal decline for over two years now, dropping from the C$17.00 range in early 2018 to now around C$6.50 per share. The stock fell as low as C$4.00 during the market pullback in March.
BlackBerry has been betting on its QNX platform for connected tech along with its cybersecurity offerings, both of which are in seemingly uptrending sectors, but so far BlackBerry’s top line hasn’t registered with investors.
BB’s latest quarterly results, delivered in late June, showed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its business. The company’s revenue dropped to $206 million from $247 million a year earlier and down from $282 million for the previous quarter. BlackBerry also suffered a goodwill impairment charge related to cybersecurity offering Spark. (All figures in US dollars except where noted otherwise.)
Madden said BlackBerry is having trouble changing lanes and slimming down from its handset-making days.
“Essentially what’s been happening here is a metamorphosis of the company under the CEO John Chen who joined in 2014 and has been pivoting it away from making smartphones towards software solutions services and Internet of Things-enabled gadgets and what have you,” Madden said.
“And it’s not been a smooth transition the company,” Madden said. “Because their cost structure hasn’t fallen commensurate they’re not making money on a generally accepted accounting principles basis and really not much on an adjusted basis.”
Madden also has a bone to pick with Chen’s pay structure, which has the CEO making at least $128 million through a five-year contract renewal announced in March 2018. That figure could balloon to $400 million if certain metrics are reached.
“You know, the executive compensation is simply egregious,” Madden said. “The CEO collected something like an $85-million signing bonus package, admittedly mostly in stock options, when he joined and collected another hundred and change last year. So, about $200 million has gone out the door and in his pocket since 2014 and the strategy is not working.”
“There are lots of other better choices in technology than a turnaround fixer-upper that’s playing a small niche,” Madden said. “We wouldn’t buy it and we would sell it here, notwithstanding that they’ve got some clout and support behind them in the form of Fairfax Financial and other influential value investors. But we’re not buying this story and we’re not buying the stock.”