BlackBerry (BBRY) had a brutal quarterly report in December -- the company wasn't just bleeding cash, it was hemorrhaging in every part of its business. Results were even worse than the Street's dismal expectations. The regular "bash BlackBerry bandwagon" piled on the results, but the stock exploded skyward for the past month. This looks like one of the most illogical stocks on the planet at times.
So why was BlackBerry not punished for such terrible results? And why the recent rise?
For starters, it couldn't go any lower for a company that was not bankrupt. The market priced it as all but dead, but to CEO John Chen's credit and famous quote "Reports of Our Death Are Greatly Exaggerated," Chen provided a believable long-term business plan to counter the incessant 'going out of business' media reports.
This was the beginning of a number of positive catalysts for BlackBerry. I'll now try to lay out catalysts for 2014 that will help explain the sudden rise of BlackBerry stock, which other investors appear to be realizing now.
1. Reports of Our Death Are Greatly Exaggerated: Would you by a phone from a company that was about to go out of business or be sold off for scrap parts? Enterprise customers need stability even more than consumers, so needless to say it wasn't good for handset or BES10 sales under this dark cloud. BlackBerry couldn't have induced lower sales if it tried, and now the bar is low (0% market share in the U.S.) and easy to beat during quarterly reporting.
2. BB10.2.1: Next to relentless "going out of business" stories, BB10's "lack of apps" was the second most quoted storyline to bash BlackBerry with. The update rolling out this week will enable Android apps to be more easily installed on a BB10 phone. The app argument will almost be dead -- there's still some tweaking to make the Android experience even better -- hence BlackBerry did not emphasize it in marketing material.
BlackBerry is now the only OS to support two OSs, and you could argue this will lead to more quality app selections than Android or iOS alone, BB10 for work apps, and Android for entertainment. BlackBerry should also monetize Android apps through BlackBerry World, but unfortunately Android developers haven't co-operated yet. Selling a few more BB10 handsets will be motivation enough for them to repackage an app for BlackBerry World. Many analysts lacking an IT background are likely underestimating or overlooking its importance, so I expect to see this story resurface in 2014 with a formal announcement from BlackBerry when it has a large number of quality Android apps to brag about.
3. BBM Voice/Video/Channels: BBM is the most engaging messaging platform out there as measured by the number of messages the average user sends (it's more than WhatsApp). With the upcoming release of voice/video/channels on Android and iOS it is undeniably a "killer app." It's safe to say the momentum will continue for 2014. Channels will be pretty straightforward to monetize with commercial advertising, and secure BBM strengthens BES10 enterprise case adoption. Then there's the sleeper story, BBM Money, an e-wallet that has been tested in Indonesia for several months and should be ready for worldwide rollout.
4. Foxconn Phones: I recently read a news report about Foxconn promoting its new BlackBerry phone "Jakarta" in an upcoming tech conference next month. Besides de-risking manufacturing costs, Foxconn has a lot of clout promoting phones. Foxconn will do more than just manufacturer phones -- it will actively promote BlackBerry phones and probably do it better than BlackBerry could in Asia with vendors, carriers, and consumers.
5. BES10 Adoption: Chen seems to be telling us every other week about new companies adopting BES10. I like his strategy of promoting this. With Chen going on the offensive and being proactive with the media, it's hard for the media to remain bearish with all these frequent news releases. BES10 license fees are a high margin cash cow for BlackBerry, and investors know this.
Despite the many competitors in this space, BlackBerry is still the 500lb gorilla in the room and enterprises don't change easily or switch to upstart companies for secure MDM solutions. Expect a slow and steady dose of BES10 adoption, especially since the new update opens up Android apps to those employees who can't live without them.
6. Rightsizing: BlackBerry has been through a lot of painful layoffs over the past year, and that will continue for the first half of 2014. Expect to see future quarterly operational costs reduced as a result. It's sad for the employees getting laid off, but investors like to see management demonstrating the ability to make difficult cost-cutting decisions.
7. Shorts Heading for the Exits: I'm a long-term investor and shorts drive me nuts, though I do respect their abilities, as evidenced by driving and keeping BlackBerry stock down at will. Shorts probably made a fortune off of BlackBerry over the past two years, more than I'll make as a long. But it looks as if they are heading off for easier prey as the last month saw dramatic short position decreases. New data on this trend should be coming out any day and will only fuel the short squeeze fire.
8. Media and Analyst Sentiment Changing: Since December, I've counted four analysts upgrading and two downgrading BlackBerry. I nearly fell off my chair after reading not one but three recent articles from BGR.com that were favorable on BlackBerry, as they have been consistently harsh on BlackBerry.
I presented a bull case here as the bear case is well publicized and well known. Yes, its sales are horrible and it is bleeding cash, and it will likely continue for another two to three quarters. The catalysts mentioned above will likely overshadow quarterly losses and keep BBRY heading northward for 2014, as long-term investors displace the shorts.