BlackBerry (BBRY) CEO John Chen told FOX Business’s Maria Bartiromo on Thursday he does not want to sell the struggling Canadian company’s handset business, saying he plans to return the money-losing division to profitability.
“I don’t have any plans to jettison the handset business. We love the handset business,” Chen told FOX Business.
The remarks clarify comments the BlackBerry chief made to Reuters that suggested a sale would come if the business remains mired in red ink. “If I cannot make money on handsets, I will not be in the handset business,” Chen told Reuters.
Such a move would have been a dramatic turnaround for a company that practically invented the smartphone market now dominated by giants like Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOG). BlackBerry’s device shipments have tumbled to less than 2 million from a peak of 52.3 million in fiscal 2011.
But Chen backed away from those comments on Thursday, telling FOX Business: “I do plan to make money in the handset business.”
The Walt Disney (DIS) and Wells Fargo (WFC) director reaffirmed BlackBerry’s pledge to make a profit in smartphones in less than two years.
“If we cannot make our handset business profitable and that cannot make the whole company profitable in 8 quarters, then we need to do something different,” Chen said.
Chen said he’s concentrating on cobbling together distribution and carriage agreements and focusing on high-end enterprise users that still appreciate BlackBerry’s security and practical advantages.
“You’ve got to have products that people want. But the important thing is I don’t want to chase the consumer world. We have competitors in the consumer world who have big advantages,” said Chen, alluding to the likes of Google, Apple and Microsoft (MSFT).
While Chen said BlackBerry is focusing on enterprise customers in the developed world, he said consumers will still play a big role in many emerging markets.
Still, he emphasized that handsets are just one part of BlackBerry’s business, which focuses on software and end-to-end solutions.
BlackBerry has 44,000 patents that Chen said he’s “more than willing to license to anyone,” though the exec said he doesn’t want to “sell off patents.”
Chen also highlighted the strength of BlackBerry Messenger Service, or BBM, which has about 115 million registered subscribers and around 85 million monthly active users.
He said investors should expect a “pretty good uptick” in BBM growth, especially after the company reached a deal to bring the service to Windows.
Shares of Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry fell 1.28% to $7.86 Thursday morning, trimming their 2014 gain to 5.5%.
Follow Matt Egan on Twitter @MattMEgan5
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