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    Time may be ripe for BlackBerry to sell itself

    Chief executive Thorsten Heins in January at the launching of BlackBerry 10. The phone didn’t produce a turnaround.
    Mario Tama/Getty Images/file
    Chief executive Thorsten Heins in January at the launching of BlackBerry 10. The phone didn’t produce a turnaround.

    TORONTO — BlackBerry will consider selling itself after the long-awaited debut of its new phones failed to turn around the struggling smartphone maker.

    The company said Monday that its board has formed a special committee to explore ‘‘strategic alternatives’’ in hopes of enhancing the company’s value and boosting adoption of its BlackBerry 10 platform.

    The company said its options could also include joint ventures, partnerships, or other moves.


    The Canadian company’s US-traded stock closed up 10.5 percent to $10.78 on Monday.

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    The BlackBerry, pioneered in 1999, had been the dominant smartphone for on-the-go business people and other consumers before Apple debuted the iPhone in 2007 and showed that phones can handle much more than e-mail and phone calls. In the years since, BlackBerry Ltd. has been hammered by competition from the iPhone as well as Android-based rivals. In January, the company unveiled new phones running a revamped operating system called BlackBerry 10 designed to better compete. But its market share continues to lag, and the company warned in June of future losses.

    Mike Walkley, an analyst with Canaccord Genuity, said sales are getting worse even with price reductions for the new phones.

    ‘‘Now they have to go to the next step of what’s best for the company and shareholders to survive long term because it doesn’t look promising on BlackBerry 10 sales,’’ Walkley said.

    Monday’s announcement marks the second time BlackBerry has said it has hired bankers to help weigh its options since Thorsten Heins became chief executive in early 2012. The company had faced numerous delays modernizing its operating system with the BlackBerry 10. During that time, it had to cut more than 5,000 jobs, and shareholder wealth declined by more than $70 billion.


    Analysts on Monday began guessing who might want to buy BlackBerry.

    ‘‘If they can get it done, they should absolutely do it,’’ said BGC Financial analyst Colin Gillis.

    Given that director Prem Watsa, the company’s largest investor with a 9.9 percent stake, is resigning from BlackBerry’s board ‘‘due to potential conflicts that may arise during the process,’’ some picked him as a possible bidder.

    Watsa has said that he believes BlackBerry can turn itself around, but that it might take three to five years. He is the founder of insurance company Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. and is one of Canada’s best-known investors.

    Gillis said Watsa, partnered with some financial backers like pension funds, could try to buy BlackBerry. Walkley rejected that idea, saying if Watsa were interested, he would have tried to buy BlackBerry before now.


    Technology companies like Apple, Google, or Microsoft would not be interested because they already have their own mobile platforms, Gillis said. ‘‘Anyone who is a player in the space has taken a sniff and moved on.’’

    Jefferies anaylst Peter Misek, however, said South Korea’s Samsung could be interested in buying BlackBerry because Google has launched a new phone of its own from its Motorola division, the Moto X. In its quest for an independent operating system for its phones, adding BlackBerry’s capabilities would be far easier than developing a system from scratch, Misek said.