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BlackBerry sells its German-based R&D assets to Volkswagen Infotainment

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WATERLOO, Ont. - BlackBerry (TSX:BB) is selling its research and development department in Germany to Volkswagen Infotainment, a subsidiary of the automaker that makes interactive technology built into vehicle dashboards.

The deal will shift about 200 BlackBerry employees in Bochum, Germany, to Volkswagen.

The move comes as the Waterloo, Ont.-based smartphone maker pushes ahead with a plan to become profitable by its 2016 financial year.

Volkswagen will assume BlackBerry's leases for offices at the Bochum University Center and the Design Support Lab.

Research and development centres are typically shrouded in secrecy for competitive reasons, and BlackBerry declined to outline what products it fostered there.

In a statement, BlackBerry said the Bochum centre oversaw hardware, software and mechanical development, as well as certain testing, certification and quality management responsibilities.

BlackBerry chief executive John Chen joined the company last year and began to make dramatic changes that included stripping out parts of the business, selling real estate and laying off employees to cut costs.

He also secured a manufacturing agreement with an outside company and began an aggressive push to improve relationships with longtime government and corporate clients.

BlackBerry has centralized most of its vehicle connectivity development at its QNX Software Systems division in Ottawa.

QNX develops technology for cars and trucks, including dashboard systems that connect directly with a driver's mobile phone and outside networks, but is also working on systems for the health care industry and mining companies.

The company is also participating in BlackBerry's Project Ion, a move to become a leader in the technology that connects everyday things, such as home appliances and smart watches, to wireless networks.

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