The Motley Fool

BlackBerry Ltd.’s Catch-22

There’s no denying that BlackBerry Ltd. (TSX:BB)(NASDAQ:BBRY) CEO John Chen has done a terrific job thus far. After all, when he took over in late 2013 the company was in serious financial trouble. Now, it’s on much more stable footing.

But there’s still much work to be done, which Mr. Chen acknowledged while speaking in Kitchener, Ontario. Below we take a closer look at what he was talking about.

A catch-22

While speaking to the crowd, Mr. Chen said, “We are now out of trouble in terms of financial, but we haven’t established a growth…until that happens nobody will go willingly buy our products.” He won’t get any arguments there.

Do you see the problem? BlackBerry needs growth to attract more customers. But it also needs more customers to achieve growth.

Especially important in software

In the last couple of years, BlackBerry has drastically switched its focus from handsets to software. This shift has come with a very ambitious goal of US$500 million in software sales this fiscal year.

That won’t be easy. When large companies purchase software products, they’ll need many years of support and upgrades from the vendor. For this reason, there needs to be zero doubts about the vendor’s longevity. Unfortunately for BlackBerry, those doubts still exist.

If you don’t believe me, just listen to Mr. Chen: “The reason I said everybody could help is you need to tell people that BlackBerry not only has a strategy; it’s no longer a troubled company. The sooner that message gets out and registers, the sooner we’ll return to growth.”

Don’t get your hopes too high

It’s no wonder that software sales have been disappointing so far. The company was originally expecting US$250 million in software revenue for FY2015, but that number came in at US$234 million. Worse still, research analysts at major banks claim that BlackBerry’s software offerings aren’t really catching on.

I expect this struggle to continue. Analysts, on average, are projecting only $3 billion in revenue for BlackBerry this fiscal year, which is 10% below last year’s number. And as long as revenue is shrinking, software sales will be hard to come by. So, that US$500 million number seems out of reach for quite a while.

More value long term

BlackBerry may be heading for an ugly year, but beneath the surface there’s a lot of untapped value. The company has best-in-class security capabilities; it has over 40,000 patents; and it also has a great operating system.

In my opinion, BlackBerry’s assets would be more valuable in the hands of another company, one that isn’t hampered by a bad brand. Unfortunately, a takeover won’t be happening any time soon. According to numerous reports, Samsung tried back in January, but was turned down.

But if the company does indeed struggle, this may very well change. So, if you’re willing to be patient, and can stomach some short-term losses, BlackBerry may deserve a spot in your portfolio.

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This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium service or advisor. We’re Motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer, so we sometimes publish articles that may not be in line with recommendations, rankings or other content.

Fool contributor Benjamin Sinclair has no position in any stocks mentioned.

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