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Takeover uncertainty has BlackBerry shares falling

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TORONTO -- BlackBerry (TSX:BB) has decided to cancel a conference call and webcast that had been scheduled for Friday after the release of its second-quarter financial results, which the company has already said will be dismal.

The announcement by the struggling smartphone maker came after the close of markets Wednesday when BlackBerry's already beaten-down shares fell another six per cent as investors weighed the likelihood of a highly conditional takeover offer from Fairfax Financial (TSX:FFH), one of BlackBerry's largest shareholders.

In a statement, the Waterloo, Ont.-based company said only it decided to cancel the conference call "in light of the letter of intent agreement between BlackBerry and Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd."

Last week, the company, which reports in U.S. dollars, said it would likely post a loss of between US$950 million and US$995 million for its fiscal second quarter. It also projected US$1.6 billion in sales, far short of analyst expectations of about US$3 billion.

A plan to cut about 40 per cent of its global workforce, about 4,500 jobs, is also underway.

With few surprises expected in the financial report, attention was expected to turn Friday to comments from chief executive Thorsten Heins about the quarter and where the company could be headed in the coming months.

However, it was unclear Wednesday what commentary might accompany the earnings report or whether top executives might otherwise be available for comment.

"The company will publish further details regarding its second-quarter results in the management's discussion and analysis and consolidated financial statements, to be filed next week," the announcement said.

On Monday, Fairfax proposed a tentative agreement to take the company private with a consortium of unnamed financiers for $9 per share.

The letter of intent values BlackBerry at US$4.7 billion, but allows Fairfax to walk away from the offer if it is dissatisfied with a number of conditions.

Shares in the smartphone maker pulled back 52 cents to close at $8.26 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Wednesday, extending a downwards shift that gained momentum earlier this week. The last time BlackBerry shares closed lower was on Oct. 31, when they ended at $7.88.

In New York, the company's stock (Nasdaq:BBRY) dropped more than six per cent on Wednesday, sliding to US$8.

The share pullback suggests BlackBerry investors are losing confidence a solid Fairfax deal will materialize.

A report in the Globe and Mail said Fairfax was seeking more than US$1 billion from other investors to help fund a takeover of BlackBerry, but the Toronto-based investment firm still has a long way before it gains the support it needs.

The Globe, citing unidentified sources, said as of Tuesday only one pension fund was seriously considering joining the Fairfax-led consortium -- the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan, one of Canada's largest institutional investors.


-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 26, 2013 B5

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