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Ford, Dan Loeb, and... the BlackBerry Resurgence?


With news that Ford is expected to replace Microsoft's operating system with BlackBerry's as the basis for its in-car Sync system, the once-king of smartphones may no longer be a bad bet.

From mid 2008 to November 2013, BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY), the once-king of the smartphone, lost 95% of its value. The company simply failed to adapt to the changing market, driven primarily by Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS and Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android. Just three months ago, a $4.7 billion buyout deal with Fairfax Financial (OTCMKTS:FRFHF) was dismantled and CEO Thorsten Heins was ousted.

Since then, however, the stock has rallied 22%, the company has a new CEO, John Chen, and Daniel Loeb, the controversial, billionaire investor, has taken a stake in the company. According to a 13F form filed with the SEC on February 14, Loeb's $14 billion hedge fund Third Point Capital owns 1.9% of BlackBerry's outstanding shares, making it the fifth largest shareholder of the Ontario, Canada-based company.

According to David Bakke of the website Money Crashers, Loeb's interest in BlackBerry could simply be because "BlackBerry is no longer considered a bad bet. It's stock has risen 31% since the beginning of this year. The CEO has also stated that the company will have a positive cash flow by the end of 2014, and will start showing profitability some time in 2016."

BlackBerry's stock rose 5% after Third Point declared its stake. And because Loeb's hedge fund is known for taking activist approaches -- Loeb has recently taken on Sony (NYSE:SNE) and Dow Chemical (NYSE:DOW) -- speculation about what his latest purchase could mean has triggered rumors of a BlackBerry-Sony (NYSE:SNE) merger.

Today, the case for BlackBerry's resurgence became even stronger when news broke that Ford (NYSE:F), the second largest American automaker, may be planning to replace Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows OS with BlackBerry's QNX operating system as the basis for its Sync system's next-generation release. Ford has not confirmed the change, but news outlets are citing sources familiar with the matter in today's reports.

Sync is an in-car, voice-activated software that Ford has sold in over 7 million vehicles to date. If Ford is replacing Microsoft with BlackBerry, it may be due to complaints of malfunctioning technology and touchscreens that have hurt the company in surveys by both J.D. Power & Associates and Consumer Reports. Moreover, the QNX system will be less expensive than Windows, and will be more flexible, according to Bloomberg.

Said the Gartner Inc. auto-analyst Thilo Koslowski, "This would be a huge infusion of trust and confidence to have BlackBerry and QNX expanding into a Ford. This is really the crown jewel in BlackBerry's crown and could make the rest of the company shine as well."

Follow me on Twitter: @JoshWolonick and @Minyanville
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