[dropcap style=”2″ color=”#f50a0a” text=”S”]truggling smartphone maker BlackBerry on Monday signed a tentative deal to be acquired by a consortium led by its biggest shareholder, setting a $4.7 billion floor in the auction of the Canadian company that invented on-the-go email.
The consortium is led by Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd, a property and casualty insurer run by Canadian investor Prem Watsa. It has offered $9 a share in cash for BlackBerry, which last week said it expected to report a quarterly loss of nearly $1 billion.
BlackBerry’s fortunes have only deteriorated since then, with the latest blow coming on Friday, when Blackberry said it would cut more than a third of its workforce as it retreats from the consumer market in favor of its traditional strength serving businesses and governments.
Fairfax, both an insurance holding company and Watsa’s investment vehicle, was on the losing end of bets against the market in the mid 2000s as Watsa waited for the U.S. mortgage industry to collapse.
The company’s stock fell by 50 percent between mid-2003 and mid-2006 as Watsa’s purchases of credit default swaps flattened profits, while rivals feasted on a housing-fed bull market.
But when the market began to weaken in 2007, Fairfax began notching up investment gains, pulling in billion-dollar profits in 2007 and 2008. Then with markets still reeling and other investors licking their wounds, Watsa started to plow money back into equities, bringing another strong year in 2009.
Since their 2006 low of C$100, Fairfax’s shares have more than quadrupled.
Indeed, Watsa had already shown his investment chops by selling stock ahead of the 1987 stock market crash and buying Japanese puts – or rights to sell stocks at guaranteed prices – ahead of the Tokyo market’s collapse in 1990.