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BlackBerry stalled in sale of patents

BlackBerry

Canadian software company BlackBerry (BlackBerry Stock Quote, Charts, News, Analysts, Financials TSX:BB) announced on Wednesday it will be exploring other options to sell off its vast store of tech patents after a deal with US special purpose entity Catapult IP Innovations appears to be hung up with troubles related to financing. 

BlackBerry announced in January that it would be selling its non-core patent assets to Catapult for total consideration of $600 million, with the deal’s closure originally expected by the end of May, subject to financing and other conditions. But the company said it’s now looking at other options, with both BlackBerry and Catapult having the right to walk away from the transaction after an August 29 deadline.

“Catapult continues to work on securing its required financing and BlackBerry looks forward to the completion of the Patent Sale Transaction. However, BlackBerry is no longer under exclusivity with Catapult and, given the length of time that the transaction has taken, BlackBerry is exploring alternative options in parallel,” BlackBerry said in a June 1 press release.

Part of the company’s long-haul shift from hardware to software, BlackBerry aims to capitalize now on its cache of some 37,000 patents before some of them reach their expiration date. Its latest quarterly financials show BlackBerry generating $185 million in revenue from its three business segments combined: Internet of Things revenue was $52 million, Cybersecurity was $122 million and Licensing & Other came in at $11 million.  Licensing and Other revenue boasted a gross margin of 55 per cent. (All figures in US dollars except where noted otherwise.)

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BlackBerry’s share price has had its wild ups and downs over the past year and a half, with BB shares rising in 2021 with the so-called meme stock craze and going from about the C$7 range in late 2020 to as high as C$23 by early 2021. But the stock has fallen fairly steadily over the past 12 months to bring it full-circle to about $7 once again.

BlackBerry’s growth trajectory has been slowed by production issues particularly in the auto sector where the company’s QNX platform is gaining traction. On the cybersecurity side, BlackBerry made a big splash in 2019 with the $1.4-billion purchase of California-based Cylance, but the company’s growth in the highly competitive field has seemingly not lived up to expectations. Cybersecurity revenue for the four quarters of fiscal 2022 was $107 million, $120 million, $128 million and $122 million, respectively.

“We’re pleased with the progress that BlackBerry made this quarter,” said CEO John Chen in the press release for the company’s fiscal fourth quarter 2022, delivered on March 31, 2022. “We’re excited about the prospects for the Cybersecurity business given another quarter of billings growth and further strengthening of the team with industry expertise in both sales and product development. The key components are in place and we expect continued billings momentum this year.”

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