Canadian law complicates potential Blackberry sale

The Investment Canada Act will force the government to investigate any foreign purchase of the company

Do you still have a Blackberry? Given the prevalence of iPhones and Android-power devices in the current smartphone market, the chances aren’t as great as they were five years ago. BlackBerry Ltd. recognizes this fact as well, and the company recently formed a special committee to explore a company sale. But before Blackberry can sell its assets, it will need to untangle the web of the Canadian legal system first.

BlackBerry’s primary shareholder, Toronto-based Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd., is unlikely to buy the company outright and has not had success rousing support for a deal with Canadian pension fund managers. This makes domestic purchase of the smartphone maker unlikely.

However, under the Investment Canada Act, the Canadian government has placed barriers to dissuade a sale to foreign manufacturers. The Act sets guidelines for foreign acquisitions of Canadian companies, and the government automatically reviews any takeover bid of more than C$344 million ($332 million).

Blackberry is currently preparing to lobby the Canadian government over the Investment Canada Act. According to Bloomberg, Blackberry executives made the disclosure about their concerns with the Act to lawmakers and government officials within the past week.

Anthony Baldanza, a Toronto-based partner at law firm Fasken Martineau DuMoulin, told Bloomberg that Blackberry will need to prove it would be better off in the hands of a foreign manufacturer, as well as address national security concerns. “If we were discussing this five years ago, when BlackBerry was a leading smartphone supplier and a national champion, it would have been very difficult,” Baldanza said. “The situation has changed dramatically.”

Blackberry is currently the country’s biggest corporate spender in research and development, as well as a major Canadian employer. Bloomberg reports that Lenovo and Microsoft are both interested in the company

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