Watsa's decision to resign from the board indicates that the Toronto-based businessman may be involved in some local attempt to rescue the company, Red Sky's Huen said. Such a move would face less scrutiny than a foreign bid. The Canadian government automatically reviews all foreign takeovers of companies with asset values of more than $334 million to determine whether the transactions are a "net benefit" to the country.
"There's a desire with folks like Prem Watsa and CPP to get involved and keep the thing together," Huen said. "It's a bit of a Canadian champion from a technology standpoint and there's going to be a desire to keep it together."
Paul Rivett, president of Fairfax, said he and Watsa declined to comment. Canadian Industry Minister James Moore also declined to comment on BlackBerry's announcement.
Speculation about possible foreign bidders has focused on Lenovo Group, the Chinese maker of personal computers, which is looking to expand its mobile-devices business. Lenovo Chief Financial Officer Wong Wai Ming told Bloomberg News in January that his company was looking at "all opportunities," including BlackBerry. Brion Tingler, a Lenovo spokesman, said today the company has no comment.
Needham's Wolf said he's skeptical that a strategic acquirer will emerge from within the technology industry. Potential buyers have had plenty of time to make a move, and the diminished prospects of the new Z10 and Q10 phones only makes a deal less likely, he said.
Microsoft Corp., BlackBerry's rival in the smartphone-software market, isn't a probable buyer because of its partnership with mobile-phone maker Nokia, Wolf said.
If there were some indication BlackBerry's new phones were gaining traction, "a buyer out of the PC or smartphone industry might emerge," he said. "But you got to believe that's not the case as yet."
BlackBerry fired 5,000 workers last year as part of a plan to eliminate $1 billion in operating costs. Analysts had expected the cutbacks to help the company post a profit last quarter. Instead, BlackBerry lost $84 million, dragged down by the sluggish sales of the BlackBerry Z10. The new touch-screen phone, introduced at a lavish event in New York in January, missed estimates by almost a million units last quarter. The company is projecting another loss for the current period.
"It could be a buyer from industry but it's more likely to be one from outside the industry and it would seem that the valuable assets are the patents and the NOC," said Wolf, referring to the secure network operating center, which the company operates for its clients.
Last month, Heins reiterated that the company was seeking partners to expand the footprint of its BlackBerry 10 operating system and help with its turnaround. After pioneering the smartphone market, the company has struggled to compete with Apple and Samsung Electronics in recent years, dragging its market share down below 3 percent.
"We will do our homework and assess what we think is best for the company and then we will have discussions and they will either yield partnerships, alliances or not," Heins told shareholders in July at BlackBerry's annual meeting in Waterloo.
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Torys will provide legal counsel as the board considers its options, according to Monday's statement.
While BlackBerry has a good lineup of products, its latest smartphones were released too late to compete with the iPhone and devices running Google's Android operating system, said Needham's Wolf. That's turned its recovery plan into an uphill battle, he said.
"The 'reinvention,' if you will, has been a dramatic disappointment," he said.