The on-again, off-again rumors swirling around Research in Motion are back on following a report by The Sunday Times that the BlackBerry maker is considering a plan to split itself in two, possibly selling off its handset business to Amazon.com or Facebook. The report also suggests that another option for the struggling Canadian company would be to sell a stake to a larger technology company such as Microsoft.
After rumors arose earlier this year about Microsoft’s possible interest in RIM, GeekWire’s Todd Bishop downplayed the possibility of an outright acquisition.
“While RIM’s patent portfolio might be of interest to the company, the notion of Microsoft buying another mobile operating system vendor with a separate ecosystem of handsets is more than a little crazy,” he wrote.
Amazon also has been discussed as a potential buyer of RIM, a move that could bolster its efforts as it pushes deeper into the mobile phone arena. Facebook also has been rumored to be working on its own phone.
It’s no secret that RIM is on the auction block. Last month, the company hired investment bankers to look at “strategic business model alternatives.”
If RIM were to sell off its handset business or spin it off, it would be left with its messaging business.
Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley today downgraded RIM’s stock, saying that the company is experiencing “rapidly deteriorating fundamentals.”
“The only way RIM remains a viable entity is at a fraction of its current size, a transformation that erases much of its earnings power,” Morgan Stanley’s Ehud Gelblum wrote, according to a report by Bloomberg BusinessWeek.
Shares of RIM are down six percent in trading today. The stock is down 67 percent over the past year, and RIM now shows a market value of $4.85 billion.
As a full entity, that would still be a big chunk for any company to take on. Facebook’s largest acquisition to date is its $1 billion purchase of Instagram, while Amazon.com’s biggest to date is the nearly $900 million purchase of Zappos.