January 23, 2012 5:18 pm

RIM chief damps down sale speculation

Only last week shares in Research In Motion jumped more than 8 per cent on speculation that the Canadian maker of the BlackBerry device might do a deal with South Korea’s Samsung, which has recently emerged as the world’s largest smartphone manufacturer.

Samsung was quick to deny the speculation, the latest in a succession of stories linking RIM with potential acquirers including Microsoft, Nokia and more recently Amazon, the online retailer and maker of the Kindle ebook reader.

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RIM has steadfastly declined to comment on whether talks with any of these companies have taken place, although Nokia confirmed that it was interested in RIM at one stage, but said it was rebuffed.

Nevertheless the speculation focused attention on investor hopes that a deal or strategic partnership might reverse the precipitous decline in RIM’s stock price over the past year.

On Monday, Thorsten Heins, RIM’s new chief executive, tried to damp down further speculation that RIM might ultimately be forced to sell out to a rival or become a takeover target for industry outsiders or private equity.

Like Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, the co-chief executives he replaced, Mr Heins indicated that he remains focused on RIM’s current strategy. “There will be no seismic change,” he said.

While Mr Heins did not specifically rule out the potential sale of the company, he made it clear that he had no plans at this stage “to split RIM up”, and indicated that he has little interest in partnerships or licensing agreements.

Once RIM’s next generation BB10 operating system is rolled out he said he would “entertain” requests from potential licensing partners, “if it makes sense strategically to go in that direction”. But he added: “This is not my focus.”

Analysts such as Mike Abramsky of the Royal Bank of Canada noted that “this entrenched stance will disappoint some investors hoping for deeper changes”. That disappointment was reflected in the 7 per cent fall in RIM’s shares by Monday afternoon.

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