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BlackBerry Ltd (BBRY) Might Actually Make Money Again Someday

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Remember BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ: BBRY )? Yes, BBRY is still in the game. It's in a minor league, a software and services league, but it's still trying to play.

BBRY Stock: BlackBerry Ltd (BBRY) Stock Being Underestimated by Investors

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BlackBerry stock is up a little so far this month, as the company has signed licensing deals around the world, one of which will result in a phone being shown at the next Mobile World Congress . BBRY is also getting a push higher in Monday's premarket trading.

The company is like a faded star plotting a comeback by playing in tiny bars. But, under CEO John Chen, formerly of Sybase , there is also something now that didn't exist for a long time: hope for a profit.

Whether you, as an investor, should be betting on that hope is another matter. But, there is hope for BBRY stock.

Hope in Security

BlackBerry used to be a name to reckon with, a big player in mobility, back when it was all about e-mail and voice, back before Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL ) grabbed the market.

Watch early seasons of The Good Wife , a CBS legal drama launched in 2009, and you'll see BlackBerry devices in every hand until, without any discussion, they suddenly disappeared late in the run.

BlackBerry had a reputation for security. President Obama had to use a BlackBerry because it was considered more secure. All the nonsense about Hillary Clinton and her e-mails involved use of a BlackBerry.

Security is still the company's calling card. This month, BBRY launched a software development kit aimed at helping enterprises secure their messaging, voice and video traffic. The hope is that it can compete with Twilio Inc (NYSE: TWLO ), a cloud-based messaging system I profiled earlier this month , and whose market cap of $3 billion compares with BlackBerry's $3.87 billion.

There is, unfortunately, less to this than meets the eye.

Stripped Down and Sobered Up

Chen has gotten out of areas where it costs money to compete, like hardware, and focused on extracting cash from the company's old software. He has licensed BBRY's key software to companies in China, Indonesia and India, taking as little as $1 per device to get the BlackBerry brand back on the market.

The consensus among analysts is that BlackBerry will report a narrow loss of just three cents per share and revenue of $295.8 million when it next reports earnings on March 21. Profits might then follow.

Chen has drastically shrunk the balance sheet over the last year and cut debt to less than 25% of assets. The asset base at the end of October was barely half of what it was a year earlier, but with just $607 million in debt on $3.35 billion in assets, there's a real company there.

By licensing old software, which only needs to be maintained, and by putting it into the cloud as a low-cost security offering, Chen hopes to resurrect BBRY as a profitable secure messaging vendor.

The problem lies in one word: old. Software does not age well. Applications from the last decade, no matter how good their claimed security, are not going to be as powerful or flexible as those that are being custom-designed for today's clouds and devices. I think BlackBerry's dreams of competing with Twilio are just that - dreams.

Bottom Line for BlackBerry Stock

BlackBerry has a lot of dreams right now, though. It dreams of having Asian companies bring its once-valuable trademark back to popularity by putting it into cheap Android hardware with local branding. It dreams of being a cloud-based security vendor. It dreams of immigrant developers choosing to join it instead of an American company, thanks to Trump.

I'm an old man with dreams, too. I just won't ask you to bet on me.

Dana Blankenhorn is a financial and technology journalist. He is the author of the sci-fi novella Into the Cloud , available at the Amazon Kindle store. Write him at danablankenhorn@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter at @danablankenhorn . As of this writing, he owned shares in AAPL.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.


The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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