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BlackBerry Ltd.: The Year in Review for 2015

This has certainly been a rocky year for BlackBerry Ltd. (TSX:BB)(NASDAQ:BBRY). The company’s Canadian-listed shares have declined by just 5%, but this is largely due to a weakening Canadian dollar. The American-listed shares, which are a better gauge of shareholders returns, have lost over 20% in 2015.

Below we take a look at the year that was.

A possible acquisition

BlackBerry’s year started with some very big news. In mid-January, Reuters reported that Samsung offered to buy the company for up to US$7.5 billion. Apparently, Samsung was very interested in securing BlackBerry’s patent portfolio.

BlackBerry’s shares jumped by close to 30% in response. But both companies denied that any discussions were happening, and investors quickly realized that no transaction would take place. The stock fell right back to where it was.

This was not the end of the story. Rumours persisted that Samsung was still trying to acquire BlackBerry. Then in May, Microsoft was rumoured to be interested in BlackBerry. And throughout the year, numerous commentators (including yours truly) insisted that a takeout was the best way out for BlackBerry’s shareholders. The question came up at the company’s annual general meeting, forcing CEO John Chen to deny that BlackBerry is for sale “at this price.”

Lacklustre results

Throughout the year, BlackBerry posted weak results.

In late March, the company reported quarterly revenue of US$660 million, down from US$793 million the previous quarter. Analysts had expected revenue to stay flat. Then in late June, BlackBerry reported US$658 million in revenue, falling short of expectations again. In late September, revenue fell below US$500 million, once again falling well below estimates.

It’s no secret why BlackBerry’s numbers were so poor: smartphone sales were declining even faster than expected. By Q2 of fiscal year 2016, the company had recognized revenue on only 800,000 units, down from 1.1 million in the previous quarter. Of course, BlackBerry was unable to make up for such declines through growth in software sales.

A new chapter

As we all know, Mr. Chen’s plan for BlackBerry centres on a transition from hardware to software. A couple of decisions this year encapsulated that trend.

The first came in early September, when BlackBerry announced a US$425 million acquisition of Good Technology. The move allows BlackBerry to bolster its offerings in the Enterprise Mobility Management industry. Then about three weeks later, the company announced an Android-based phone called the Priv, which signals a shift away from its own operating system.

So far at least, those moves appear to be paying off. BlackBerry has just announced very strong quarterly numbers, especially from the software division. The only caveat is that the company hasn’t announced how many smartphones were sold.

Thus BlackBerry shareholders are certainly more hopeful heading into the new year than they were six months ago (or even three weeks ago). Time will tell if the company is able to maintain its momentum.

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

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