Canada Pension Plan Investment Board would consider joining a bid for BlackBerry Ltd., though the country’s biggest pension fund says it’s not compelled to rescue the struggling Canadian smartphone maker.
“Given that BlackBerry is clearly for sale or looking for strategic solutions, it would be fair to assume that we would analyze that and try and make a determination as to whether it makes sense on a risk-adjusted basis for us to participate in a financial bid,” Mark Wiseman, chief executive officer of the Toronto-based fund, said in an interview today.
Canada Pension, with C$188.9 billion ($181.6 billion) under management, joins Canadian funds including Alberta Investment Management Corp. that are weighing investments in BlackBerry.
Wiseman declined to say whether the fund was considering joining the Fairfax bid or any other investment group.
“We’re in the business of investing,” Wiseman said from his Toronto office. “It is safe to assume that we would look at any large asset that was up for sale anywhere in the world that could potentially meet our investment criteria.”
BlackBerry agreed last month to a tentative $4.7 billion offer from Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. (FFH), its largest shareholder, to take the handset-maker private. Under that pact, BlackBerry (BBRY:US) has until Nov. 4 to consider other proposals while Fairfax and a group of investors conduct due diligence and line up financing. Toronto-based Fairfax hasn’t named any partners in its bid.
BlackBerry accepted a tentative offer from Fairfax after years of losing market share to rivals Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. The smartphone maker’s failure to capture consumer interest as Apple and Samsung broadened its array of smartphone apps and devices pushed BlackBerry’s share of the global smartphone market down to 2.9 percent in June, according to research firm IDC.
Leo de Bever, CEO of Alberta Investment Management, said Oct. 7 that “all the usual suspects” are speaking with Fairfax about investing in the Waterloo, Ontario-based company. Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, the country’s third-largest pension manager, held preliminary discussions with Fairfax about its bid for the company, two people familiar with the talks said last month. Fairfax CEO Prem Watsa said Sept. 23 that the consortium of interested parties had a strong Canadian component.
Canada Pension held 1.3 million shares of BlackBerry worth C$13.3 million as of June 30, according to the fund’s latest quarterly filing. The fund is the third-largest holder of the company’s stock among Canada’s pension managers after Ontario Teachers’ and Public Sector Pension Investment Board, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Canada Pension, which manages the retirement savings for 18 million people in every province except for Quebec, would examine any investment based on the risk and return, rather than a sense of nationalism to keep BlackBerry in Canadian hands, Wiseman said.
“The money we’re managing is the hard-earned savings of 18 million individuals,” said Wiseman, who uses a BlackBerry handheld device. “So whatever my personal views may be about BlackBerry or any other company in this country, our job here isn’t to save Canadian companies or to kill them or even to have a view on them. Our job is very simply to make the best investments we can, be it here or anywhere else in the world.”
BlackBerry fell less than 1 percent to $7.97 at 1:45 p.m. in New York, below the $9-a-share offer from Fairfax.
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