Lenovo and BlackBerry have reportedly signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that lets the Chinese concern send in the accountants in order to gain an understanding of whether the beleaguered phone-maker is worthy of an acquisition.
The Wall Street Journal reports (paywalled) that the NDA covers all aspects of BlackBerry's operations because Lenovo is interested in buying the whole company.
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Lenovo launched a smartphone business in China last year and quickly became one of the Middle Kingdom's top vendors. It has signalled an intention to enter other markets, an ambition that brings with it the nasty necessity to set up relationships with distributors, carriers and retailers. Lenovo has some of those relationships thanks to its consumer-oriented PCs, but may struggle to convert channel relationships set up to sling servers and business desktops into a phone business in the enterprise.
Buying BlackBerry would give Lenovo all of those relationships in a flash, plus a fat patent portfolio with which to fend off the inevitable lawsuits coming its way as it gets deeper into mobile phones. Then there's the mobile messaging business BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins has said is BlackBerry's fallback position, although whether the world is ready to have its supposedly secure messages tended by a Chinese concern is another matter.
News of Lenovo's interest brings the number of possible suitors for BlackBerry to six.
Investor Fairfax Holdings has its own plan to buy it out for $US4.7bn. Cisco, SAP and Google are also rumoured to be interested in a buy-out and/or carve-up. BlackBerry cofounders Mike Lazaridis and Douglas Fregin have reportedly also decided to look for pennies behind the sofa in order to buy back their baby.
The queue of buyers is good news for BlackBerry as it shows there are lots of people who think the company is worth saving. Just which bits will be retained and what it means for the dwindling band who still like a BlackBerry in the hand remains to be seen. ®