BlackBerry Ltd. (BBRY) chief executive John Chen told Bloomberg he’d eventually consider spinning off or selling the smartphone maker’s popular instant-messaging service, known as BBM, once he’s built it into a more formidable competitor.
“Running a public company, anything to help our shareholders I need to take a very serious look at,” Chen said in an interview today with Bloomberg Television at the MWC in Barcelona. “Today I think we need to build up that base and build up the innovation model.”
Chen, a former SAP AG (SAP) executive who took BlackBerry’s reins late last year, today unveiled a sub-$200 smartphone aimed for Southeast Asia, as well as a new encrypted version of BBM, aimed at its core of security-minded customers.
Bloomberg notes that “Chen’s renewed focus on the instant-messaging service”, one of BlackBerry’s main software apps, “and the company’s business users” has prompted a rally in BBRY, which continued last week after Facebook (FB)’s $19 billion acquisition — its biggest ever — of rival service messaging service WhatsApp Inc.
“The potential is going to be huge,” Chen said of BBM. “Until we get to the point that we can showcase that potential it is a bit too early to think about getting our $19 billion.”
Chen also said that BlackBerry’s 85+ million active monthly users, “imply a valuation for BBM of as much as $3.6 billion” if compared to the price Facebook paid for WhatsApp’s 465 million users.
BBRY closed at $9.83 on Monday and is currently trading up 9 percent at $10.72. The ticker has climbed 44 percent year-to-date.