By Catherine Shu
Research In Motion (RIMM) is once again the target of a rumored acquisition. Lenovo's CFO Wang Wai Ming said in an interview with Bloomberg at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos that the Beijing company is eyeing the BlackBerry maker as a potential acquisition target or strategic alliance partner.
The news comes less than a week after RIM CEO Thorsten Heins told German newspaper Die Welt that RIM is still undergoing a strategic review, with the possibility of licensing BB 10 to other manufacturers and selling its hardware production unit. And last August, Bloomberg reported that IBM "made an informal approach" to acquire RIM's enterprise-services unit-the heart of BlackBerry's business-amid intensifying rumors of an acquisition.
"We are looking at all opportunities-RIM and many others," Wong told Bloomberg. "We'll have no hesitation if the right opportunity comes along that could benefit us and shareholders." Wong added that Lenovo has already spoken to RIM and its bankers about various combinations and strategic ventures, though it is unclear when exactly Lenovo (OTCPK:LNVGY) would put in a bid.
RIM has been looking at its options since last year, when its market share took a beating from the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy. On Lenovo's side, a shrinking PC market has kept it from growing after it bought IBM's PC unit in 2005.
RIM's stock price fell to a low of $6.22 in September, but has since nearly tripled due to speculation over the results of a strategic review and buzz over RIM's long-anticipated BB 10 phones, which will finally debut in less than a week. If the BB 10 takes off as RIM hopes, one option is to focus on licensing the OS to rivals like Samsung.
A takeover of RIM by a Chinese company would certainly raise security questions-especially for the company once described as a Canadian "crown jewel" by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. And back in July, RIM CEO Thorsten Heins said that the company has pulled back from expanding its China operations because of concerns over protecting its sensitive networks.
The deal could also face regulatory hurdles in the U.S., where government investigations into spyware have already created massive hurdles for two other Chinese telecommunications manufacturers, Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corp. But a deal focused on just hardware instead of key IP and software might have an easier time making it past regulators.
Lenovo has been on an acquisitions kick lately as it seeks to pump new life into its business as PC sales wane. This month it completed a purchase of Brazilian computers, moible and tablets maker CCE. Its other five acquisitions in 2011 have included the purchases of Essen, Germany-based maker Medion, and the PC unit of Tokyo's NEC Corp.
RIM has been emailed for comment.