BlackBerry CEO John Chen says he would recommend the board to take a $19 billion buyout offer for BlackBerry Messenger.
It goes without saying that no one’s going to offer $19 billion for BBM, it has roughly 80 million users as opposed to over 460 million on WhatsApp, and even that isn’t enough to truly justify the eye watering sum Facebook has paid for this cross platform messaging service.
Chen was talking with CNBC following BlackBerry’s announcements at the Mobile World Congress 2014 in Barcelona, where the company unveiled its Z3 smartphone and teased the Q20. He’s obviously not putting a dollar figure on BBM, rather, he’s talking hypothetically about the direction the company could take once it has finally managed to crawl out of the pit that it currently finds itself in. Prior to the cash injection from Fairfax last year it was rumored that the company might be broken up and sold for parts, BBM was considered to be one of the few divisions that would have actually attracted buyers. Since its launch on iOS and Android, over 20 million new users have been added and the company wants to keep the momentum going, which is why it has set its sights on Windows Phone next.
His comment was actually pretty straight forward, “I work for the shareholder,” he said, adding that he would “definitely sell it,” and would recommend the same to the board. However, right now he doesn’t look at BBM that way. Chen is aware of the fact that there is a lot of value in the messaging business, and believes that the right thing to do at this point is expand that and try to grow as much as possible before even considering a valuation.
BBM has a long road ahead of itself, it hasn’t been a year since it was opened up to other platforms and its already losing users who’re dumping BlackBerry phones for iOS or Android. On rival platforms, it faces tough competition in all markets from the likes of WhatsApp, Viber and Line, even Kik for that matter. How BlackBerry intends to drive growth for BBM in mature markets remains to be seen, but the company has been able to get several partners on board who will ship their mid-range devices with BBM pre-installed, LG is one of them, and so is Nokia.