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Struggling BlackBerry reaches $5b deal to go private

BlackBerry has reached an agreement to be taken private by a group led by Canada's Fairfax Financial Holdings.

BlackBerry has reached an agreement to be taken private by a group led by Canada's Fairfax Financial Holdings.

The company signed a letter of intent that would pay shareholders $US9 ($9.50) a share in cash, a deal that values the faltering smartphone maker at about $US4.7 billion ($4.9billion), according to a media release. Fairfax already owns 10 per cent of BlackBerry.

BlackBerry entered into the agreement on the recommendation of a special committee of its board, which has been evaluating strategic options as its market share has continued to erode in recent months.

Fairfax and its co-investors are seeking financing from Bank of America Merrill Lynch and BMO Capital Markets.

BlackBerry and Fairfax agreed to complete due diligence by November 4. During this time, BlackBerry is permitted to enter into talks with other potential acquirers. The press release did not identify the other investors joining with Fairfax.

"The special committee is seeking the best available outcome for the company's constituents, including for shareholders," Barbara Stymiest, BlackBerry's chairwoman, said in a statement. "Importantly, the go-shop process provides an opportunity to determine if there are alternatives superior to the present proposal from the Fairfax consortium."

If BlackBerry backs out of the Fairfax deal or finds another buyer, it would owe Fairfax a fee of 30¢ a share, or $157 million ($166.5million) . It would owe Fairfax $262 million if it walked away from a signed agreement.

"We believe this transaction will open an exciting new private chapter for BlackBerry, its customers, carriers and employees," Prem Watsa, chief executive of Fairfax, said in a statement. "We can deliver immediate value to shareholders, while we continue the execution of a long-term strategy in a private company with a focus on delivering superior and secure enterprise solutions to BlackBerry customers around the world."

Mr Watsa stepped down from BlackBerry's board last month to avoid criticism over a potential conflict of interest as he sought to find a future path for the beleaguered company.

On Friday, BlackBerry said it would lay off about 40 per cent of its employees, 4500 people, and report a $1 billion ($1.06 billion) quarterly loss. A new operating system and new phones that were supposed to have rejuvenated the company have been a flop. Much of the quarterly loss will come from writing down the value of the company's inventory of unwanted BlackBerry 10 phones.

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