BEIJING: Chinese computer maker Lenovo is making a strategic move to acquire BlackBerry, which is used by US president Barack Obama and over 5,00,000 US officials, including many in the US Department of Defense. Reports in Wall Street Journal and IT industry publications suggest that Lenovo has already obtained access to the company’s account books.
Lenovo, which acquired IBM’s computer business in 2005, is competing with Prem Watsa-led Fairfax Financial Holdings, which has made an offer of $4.7 billion with a November 4 deadline. But IT industry publications are saying the Chinese firm might face resistance from both US and Canadian regulators.
“Lenovo is based in China, which automatically raises national security red flags. Other Chinese firms, such as Huawei and ZTE, have struggled to acquire US companies,” New York-based Information Week said in an article.
US regulators recently asked Sprint to divest some of its Chinese-made networking infrastructure to pave the way for a separate deal with SoftBank, it said. Chinese telecom maker Huawei, which is headed by a former member of the People’s Liberation Army, has faced resistance in several countries including India and the US because of suspicion that its equipment could pose security risks.
“Lenovo managed to grow share by expanding into the ‘PC plus’ area, including tablets and smartphones,” Andreas Mayer, Lenovo’s executive director, said in a recent interview with China’s Xinhua news agency. Chinese mobile makers are fighting a relentless battle against the rising tide of demand for iPhone and Apple products within the country. Ownership of BlackBerry would give Lenovo an opportunity to take on Apple, observers said.
BlackBerry would also prove to be hugely valuable for Lenovo both because it holds precious technology patents and an enterprise network, which powers the email and BBM messages used across the world. Nearly a million BlackBerrys are believed to be in use by US government officials, half of which are used within the US Department of defense.