BlackBerry’s Chen Touts BBM in Facebook WhatsApp $19B AftermathBlackBerry’s Chen Touts BBM in Facebook WhatsApp $19B Aftermath
Facebook’s (FB) recent jaw-dropping $19 billion acquisition of the WhatsApp messaging service and its 450 million users may have prompted BlackBerry (BBY) chief John Chen to reconsider the worth of the device maker’s widely-used BlackBerry Messenger service (BBM) on the open market.
February 27, 2014
Facebook’s (FB) recent jaw-dropping $19 billion acquisition of the WhatsApp messaging service and its 450 million users may have prompted BlackBerry (BBY) chief John Chen to reconsider the worth of the device maker’s widely used BlackBerry Messenger service (BBM) on the open market.
All of a sudden, messaging apps are hot acquisition targets. In addition to Facebook’s deal for WhatsApp, Japan e-commerce giant Rakuten recently plunked down $900 million for the Viber calling and messaging service and its 300 million users.
Chen, who showcased an encrypted version of BBM—the upcoming BBM Protected Service aimed at security-concerned customers—at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, told Bloomberg and other news outlets that selling or spinning off the BBM service into a separate business is an option he’d consider once the company is on firmer footing. Bloomberg figured the Facebook WhatsApp deal drives BBM’s valuation to more than $3.5 billion.
“Running a public company, anything to help our shareholders I need to take a very serious look at,” Chen told Bloomberg at MWC. “Today, I think we need to build up that base and build up the innovation model.”
BBM is a longstanding staple of the BlackBerry lineup and the company claims more than 85 million monthly active customers of the service. BlackBerry just unwrapped BBM for Microsoft’s (MSFT) Windows Phone-based smartphones and Nokia‘s (NOK) X lineup of Google (GOOG) Android devices, which should bump up its global BBM user numbers when the service is available. In December, BlackBerry announced BBM would come preloaded on LG phones.
“I have to thank Facebook for the interest around messaging systems. BBM has a great follower base—around 85 million active users a month—which is expanding,” Chen said at MWC. “This is before the contributions come in from the Windows phone and the LG phone. We though are still far away from the 465 million (from Whatsapp). We think it has a lot of value, is a huge asset for us that we treasure,” he said.
Fiddling with BBM either to sell it or spin it off isn’t a new BlackBerry proposition. Last August, then-BlackBerry chief Thorsten Heins mulled morphing BBM into a quasi-independent subsidiary called BBM Inc. At the time, BlackBerry moved some key personnel to its BBM team and began working in earnest on additions to the messaging technology, such as video chatting.
Chen, who’s aiming to bring BlackBerry to the break-even point by March 2015, now is aggressively tapping into the device maker’s BBM customer lineup to drive sales.
“We have 80,000 customers around the world, we just need them to buy more stuff,” he said. “That’s going to be the basic building block.”
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