RIM Should Consider A Sirius Acquisition

Jan.31.12 | About: BlackBerry Ltd. (BBRY)

I took a quick glance at Research in Motion's (RIMM) summary report and realized that with its Tuesday close of $17.02, the stock is now up over 17 percent on the year. While it is nothing to get too excited about considering the state of the company, it does raise a few eyebrows when considering where it has come from. At one point investors could not decide what would bottom out first - its market share or its market cap.

I wrote an article on Monday discussing how Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) was committed to attacking industry leader Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and leveraging its own competitive advantage. Absent in that discussion was Research in Motion and any real threat that it can pose to what is now a 2-team race towards the finish. It is remarkable to think that the company is just a few years removed from trading at $140 per share and being the king of Wall Street. Today, its brand has become synonymous with ineptitude.

A few weeks ago I gave you three ways that the company can turn around its fortunes. One of them was new leadership. To make that point, I said the following:

I've once said that absent of an acquisition, the company cannot be saved. But after having more time to study the company's landscape, I've become more open minded to other possible avenues. The reality is, as downtrodden the company is today, it still serves a smart phone industry that is still growing - one that is currently still less than half of the overall phone market. But, admittedly, even as optimistic as these numbers may inspire, the confidence is lost when considering the track record of its management and its ability to execute into that growth. So it leads to the first major decision in its ability to be saved - both co-CEOs must be replaced by a single visionary.

Remarkably, the company listened, and it has decided on a single visionary, but I'm beginning to think that the company did not listen well enough - this, after having heard the new CEO, Thorsten Heins, speak in defense of the company and its former leaders. Upon his suggestion that the company does not need to make any "drastic changes" and it's not a "turnaround play," I had no recourse but to throw my hands in the air in disgust.

Leftover food repackaged

To his credit, Mr. Heins did acknowledge that the company had made a litany of mistakes and suggested that the continuing hemorrhaging of market share in the U.S. "hurts" and that the company did not adjust early enough to the paradigm shift. But he lost points on the credibility scale by suggesting that part of RIMM's problem may be that "sometimes we innovate too much." Indeed this was an actual quote. He basically defended the way that the company has been doing business in the same breath as admitting that it has dropped the ball in ways it should not. So the question then becomes, which is it?

Normally, any leadership change of this caliber would require the obligatory "new stamp imprint" on what is to become "the new company." It was abundantly clear that this is not going to be the case, and only ignited further disappointment and skepticism from RIM shareholders - essentially, this is a classic case of leftover food packaged as a new meal. While it might be enough to appease the hunger in the near term, will you regret having eaten it in the middle of the night.

Said differently, while the stock is indeed up 17 percent on the year, it is still not enough to enter the conversation involving Apple and Amazon. If you couple the fact that once Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) fully unveils its own mobile strategy with its partnership with Nokia (NYSE:NOK) and the fact that Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android platform continues to increase, RIM's stock may only be two quarters away from dropping below $10, absent any new attainable competitive strategy.

One of these strategies: Aside from devoting its attention to services, the company should consider an acquisition. I think a firm such as Sirius XM (NASDAQ:SIRI), although unlikely, would be a good acquisition candidate. This point has been made once before. This would separate RIM from its dying enterprise footprint and further its own BBM Music Service strategy - one that now has a new $5 a month cloud-based offering. This service allows subscribers to share songs with fellow subscribers while also allowing users to select up to 50 songs per session, which means the more BBM friends a subscriber has, the more music selections that will be made available to the user via the cloud.

This idea has Sirius Synergy all over it, especially considering that RIM's new BlackBerry 10 OS would work wonders for Sirius' new Lynx radios and those that might be coming down the road. Sirius' weakness is innovation, according to RIM's new CEO, the company's "problem" is that it "innovates too much" - sounds like a marriage made in heaven. They can then both decide which CEO stays.


Research in Motion is not going to die a quick death. In fact, the company just bought itself some more time with its new leader. Among still being ubiquitous in the enterprise, the company still has some possible catalysts in the pipeline with its upcoming OS as well as Mobile Fusion. Though "drastic change" is said to not be on the horizon, I can't help but realize that this was nothing more than a smokescreen. The company has no other choice and should seek to scale down some of its operations. It can do this by discontinuing legacy platforms and commit to offering strictly enterprise business services. A strategic partnership and/or an acquisition should be on its agenda if it truly wants to be considered a new meal - and better yet, a new stock.

Disclosure: I am long RIMM, MSFT, SIRI.