BlackBerry chief gives turnaround 50-50 chance

Well, you never know, BlackBerry might be okay -- heads or tails?

BlackBerry CEO John Chen at this year's Consumer Electronics Show. Roger Cheng/CNET

Will BlackBerry recover from its financial struggles and once again turn a profit? BlackBerry Chief John Chen is at least honest -- and sees the company's future as a coin toss.

In an interview with the Financial Times conducted during last month's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and published Tuesday, BlackBerry's CEO said that recovery and restructuring strategies have a "50-50 chance" of success.

Where there is a chance, there's hope, right? Despite the company's financial woes, Chen remains optimistic, saying during the interview:

"I think when you look at turnaround history in the technology market -- although there is not a lot -- but not too long ago IBM went through it, and not too long ago Apple went through it. I think this is really about catching the technology market wave. And if we've done it correctly, [BlackBerry] could be a dominant player again."

John Chen turned Sybase around and sold the company to SAP. But can Chen formulate a new strategy for BlackBerry, which raised $1 billion in additional capital, to return it to past glory?

Chen says that in order to secure the company's future, "execution" is key. As a result, industry veterans now fill up the management team, and the new chief plans to turn BlackBerry back to its "heritage and roots" -- enterprise-based, end-to-end mobile solutions.

To further this plan, BlackBerry teamed up with Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn in the creation of the under-$200 Z3 BlackBerry handset. According to Chen, the two companies are already in talks over the production of a second device.

Chen took over the company only months ago, and poor financial performance has ramped up the pressure to turn BlackBerry around. Originally slated as an interim CEO, Chen took over after BlackBerry's largest shareholder, Fairfax Financial, failed in its attempt to buy out the handset maker.

The Canadian smartphone maker hasn't had it easy. BlackBerry's Q4 financial results were worse than expected, accumulating a $4.4 billion loss overall due to restructuring costs, write-downs, and one-time charges. In total, BlackBerry announced losses of 67 cents per share on revenue of $1.2 billion. However, the firm's enterprise segment did fairly well, and the handset maker said it has 80,000 separate customers running its government-grade security enterprise back-end services.

Chen hopes that BlackBerry's cash flow will be positive by the end of the current fiscal year and that the company will once again turn a profit by the end of March 2016.

This story originally posted as "BlackBerry CEO: Company recovery is a coin toss" on ZDNet.

 

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