Is BlackBerry Ltd. a Good Choice for a RRSP?

After falling nearly 25% thus far in 2016, BlackBerry Ltd. (TSX:BB)(NASDAQ:BBRY) is starting to look like an attractive RRSP option.

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The Motley Fool

It hasn’t been a good year for BlackBerry Ltd. (TSX:BB)(NASDAQ:BBRY) thus far in 2016.

Shares popped nicely during December, moving from $10 each to $13 by the end of the year. But the move was short-lived as shares promptly fell back to $10 each. February has been a little better, but BlackBerry shares are still down for the month. They currently trade at $9.59 each on the Toronto Stock Exchange, a 25% decline since the beginning of the year.

As the company has continued to lose market share in handsets, many investors have written it off for good. Why invest in BlackBerry, the consensus goes, when a stock like Apple dominates the sector? Apple has millions of very loyal fans, multiple product lines, and it has only begun to scratch the surface in markets like China and India. Oh, and it has more than US$200 billion in cash and it trades at a P/E ratio of just over 10.

Many investors think BlackBerry is a value stock, similar to Apple. There’s plenty of evidence to support that hypothesis, including BlackBerry’s strong balance sheet, the intrinsic value behind its patent portfolio, and the value of the company’s brand, something that would be especially attractive to a would-be acquirer.

While these are all important aspects to the BlackBerry story, investors who focus on the past are missing a big aspect of what could be BlackBerry’s ticket to significant upside compared to the stock price today.

Here’s the case for making BlackBerry an investment in your RRSP before the February 29th deadline.

Software growth

In the company’s most recent quarter it reported sales from software and services of US$154 million, up from US$73 million in the same quarter a year ago. BlackBerry helped boost these results from its acquisitions of Good Technology and AtHoc, but neither of these transactions closed until about halfway through the quarter. Thus, we can conclude the company’s next quarter will be even better.

BlackBerry needs this growth in software. It has been dependent on service access fees, charges paid by carriers for their customers to use phones that operate the BlackBerry 7 operating system. During its most recent quarter, revenue from these sources fell from US$211 million to US$173 million.

CEO John Chen has publicly said he would like software to contribute US$500 million to BlackBerry’s top line on an annual basis by the end of the company’s fiscal 2016 at the end of February. It appears the company is well on pace to hit that goal.

Don’t count on phones

Many investors think BlackBerry can stage a comeback in the handset space.

After devices running on the new BlackBerry 10 operating system didn’t do as well as expected, the company has taken on a different strategy with its latest offering, the Priv. This phone runs on Android, the world’s most popular operating system. From the looks of sales so far, the Priv looks to be a modest success.

Many investors view BlackBerry’s handset division as sort of a free option. They get exposure to a company with a growing software division, a world-class security provider, and they get the potential for a big hit if one of the company’s smartphones happens to be a hit.

I’m not sure that’s the right attitude to have. In the smartphone industry today, the major players are all caught in a standoff. They each have features that violate a competitor’s patents. Nobody sues each other because each company knows they’ll get sued right back.

If BlackBerry was out of the handset business completely, it would be free to sue for royalties without any consequences. Analysts estimate this could bring up to US$400 million in revenue to the company with minimal expenses. Investors should almost be hoping BlackBerry gets out of the hardware business.

BlackBerry is a software company that happens to make phones. The software part of the business should continue to grow, especially as the Internet of Things continues to take off. Combine that with the free option of the phone division and the nice balance sheet, and BlackBerry could make a nice contrarian investment for your RRSP.

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 Nelson Smith owns shares of BlackBerry. David Gardner owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple.

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