This Indicator Says Investor Confidence in BlackBerry Ltd. Is High

BlackBerry Ltd. (TSX:BB)(NASDAQ:BBRY) is rocketing back to relevance. Can it stay there?

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Due to the multi-year collapse in its share price, BlackBerry Ltd. (TSX:BB)(NASDAQ:BBRY) stock has been a favourite among short sellers who profit when stocks go down. Back in 2013, 190 million shares were sold short, nearly 50% of the entire company. Since that time the stock has fallen a massive 50%. Surprisingly, however, short sellers appear less confident about their bearish bets.

Following its peak in 2013, short interest has steadily fallen to its current level of only 75 million shares, representing less than 15% of shares. While profit taking explains some of the decline, it still is a massive vote of confidence from the market. With a market cap of only $4.2 billion, the company should find it much easier to move the needle in terms of sales and profits. This alone makes shorting the stock a riskier proposition.

Is BlackBerry stock finally ready for a comeback?

The Priv had better come through

Back in 2009, when BlackBerry held a 20% global market share, its phones had two major selling points: high security and a physical keyboard. Competitors, meanwhile, focused on user interfaces and applications, something BlackBerry was unable to develop in any meaningful way.

Today, Alphabet Inc.’s Android platform controls 80% of the smartphone market, with Apple Inc.’s iOS taking nearly the entire remainder. BlackBerry has needed to change its strategy for years, but it has only recently taken action.

This year BlackBerry launched the Priv, its first Android phone.

Running Android solves many of the user experience issues, specifically in terms of the app library. Fortunately, the company was able to continue providing what few features consumers liked about previous models, including a physical keyboard and layered security. While its specifications are on par or better than the rest of the market, BlackBerry has a tough hill to climb in convincing buyers to switch back to its products.

Early reviews, however, are quite promising. The Wall Street Journal said the following:

As Samsung, LG and other Android titans focus on making phones ever so slightly thinner, faster, and better at taking photos, the Priv’s slide-out physical keyboard, long battery life and focus on privacy—hence the dumb name—stand apart from those. It even challenges Apple’s ruling iPhone. A few performance issues aside, the Priv is the first BlackBerry in years that I have loved using—and that I can recommend.

What’s the downside?

Currently, the company’s tangible book value per share is $6.63 and shareholder equity is $3.5 billion. The current stock price is $8.02 and the market capitalization is $4.2 billion. So, at the minimum, shares do seem to be supported by the company’s liquidation value.

There would also be a fair amount of value in a broken-up BlackBerry. It has acquired and consolidated a fair amount of intellectual property and knowledge, especially in the security space. If its assets were sold off, they would fetch a reasonably high bid, and the market seems to know that.

With mitigated downside, the question does seem to be, How well the company can turn itself around? For now, the Priv is its best bet. Positive reviews don’t always translate into profits (ask any critically acclaimed box office bomb). Perhaps the best investment advice about BlackBerry stock would be to find a Priv and test it out yourself. The company’s future will be in your hands.

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 Ryan Vanzo has no position in any stocks mentioned. David Gardner owns shares of Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), and Apple. Tom Gardner owns shares of Alphabet (A shares) and Alphabet (C shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), and Apple.

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