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BlackBerry CEO: Company is ‘very much alive’

By Hugo Miller
Bloomberg News

BlackBerry Ltd.’s new chief executive officer urged customers to stick with the company because he says it remains committed to technology that helps corporate clients manage mobile devices, including those made by competitors.

BlackBerry’s device-management business caters to iPhone and Android smartphone users and is no more expensive than rival firms, contrary to what competitors say, wrote CEO John Chen in a letter to clients.

The company’s customer base is growing for such services, he said in the letter, which was posted on the company’s Inside BlackBerry blog.

“We are very much alive, thank you,” said Chen, who took over as CEO of the struggling Canadian smartphone maker last month. “We understand the realities of the enterprise mobility market better than anyone, and we’re in the game for the long term.”

Chen is seeking to reassure large business customers that the company will be there for them amid speculation that it might be broken up, with smartphone sales sliding and losses mounting.

His hiring was announced Nov. 4 after the company canceled plans to be bought by a group led by Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. and taken private.

BlackBerry shares are down about 46 percent this year.

Chen’s letter follows a series of full-page ads the Waterloo, Ontario, Canada-based company took out in newspapers around the world in October, communicating a similar message. Slow sales of new models such as the Z10 led to a 45 percent revenue decline in the quarter that ended in August, prompting a $934 million inventory writedown.

Wireless carriers and other partners have begun to waver in their support for BlackBerry’s devices. T-Mobile US Inc., the fourth-largest U.S. carrier, said in September it would begin removing BlackBerry inventory from its stores, requiring buyers to have the phones shipped to them instead. Morgan Stanley and UBS AG, two of the world’s biggest banks, have held off on a switch to BlackBerry 10, while Credit Suisse Group AG has decided not to upgrade at all.

Without naming any specific new customers, Chen stressed that the company is thriving and that BlackBerry plans to be around for a while.

“Our ‘for sale’ sign has been taken down and we are here to stay,” he said.


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