BlackBerry buys Movirtu, terms not disclosed

BlackBerry Ltd. says it has a definitive agreement to buy WatchDox Ltd. for an undisclosed price.
A Canadian flag flies at BlackBerry's headquarters in Waterloo, Ont. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Robins

WATERLOO, Ont. – BlackBerry Ltd. says its acquisition of London-based Movirtu will give its business customers the tools to easily set up “virtual identities” for employees, with separate personal and corporate phone numbers on a single mobile device.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed Thursday by BlackBerry (TSX:BB) (Nasdaq:BBRY).

BlackBerry executives said that the acquisition will address issues that arise when employees bring their own devices for work-related use, or when employees are allowed to use corporate devices for personal reasons.

“Our strategy is to broaden BlackBerry’s solutions and services that enable our customers to fully embrace the potential of enterprise mobility,” John Sims, president of BlackBerry’s enterprise division, said on a blog posted on BlackBerry’s website.

Sims is part of the new executive team put in place by BlackBerry chairman and chief executive John Chen, who has been reshaping the company to focus on its business-oriented enterprise division and some of its more cutting-edge technologies.

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Prior to joining BlackBerry in January, Sims was president of mobile services for SAP AG, a German multinational company that provides enterprise software to large organizations.

Chen was brought in after BlackBerry, a pioneer of the smartphone industry, was unable to compete in the mass market against devices with Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android operating systems.

BlackBerry’s first new handheld devices to be released under Chen’s leadership, an old-style BlackBerry dubbed the Classic and a new format called the Passport, are expected to be officially announced later this month.

The company is planning invitation-only events on Sept. 24 in Toronto, London and Dubai, but hasn’t provided details.

Chen said in August that BlackBerry had completed reductions to its workforce that began three years earlier and that it was preparing for modest hiring and small acquisitions.

Carsten Brinkschulte, Movirtu’s CEO, said in Thursday’s blog posting that one of the benefits of joining the Waterloo, Ont.-based smartphone company is its network’s direct connections to hundreds of mobile operators around the world.

“Leveraging these existing connections would be the best way to offer quick and reliable deployment of the Movirtu Virtual SIM solution with minimal effort for the operator. Additionally, BlackBerry will help bring the solution to market through their wide network of mobile operators,” Brinkschulte said.

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BlackBerry shares were up four per cent or 49 cents at $11.72 as of midday Thursday. At the time it was one of the most heavily traded issues on the Toronto Stock Exchange, with more than 2.5 million traded. On Nasdaq, the stock was at US$10.62, with 5.8 million traded.

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