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BlackBerry Ltd. (BB.TO) is laying off “a small number” of employees at its Waterloo headquarters and 75 in Florida, as it continues the comeback plan plotted by CEO John Chen.
On Thursday, Blackberry issued a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Notice that it would be cutting 75 manufacturing employees at its facility in Sunrise, Fla.
On Friday, Blackberry issued a statement that denied media reports that 35 per cent of its work force was being cut, saying in a statement: “As BlackBerry continues to execute its turnaround plan, we remain focused on driving efficiencies across our global work force. As a result, a small number of employees have been impacted in Waterloo and Sunrise, FL. … For those employees that have recently left the company, we know that they have worked hard on behalf of our company and we are grateful for their commitment and contributions.”
Among those leaving the company is the creator of the BBM messaging service, Gary Klassen, who was a director of architecture and innovation. His departure was announced on Facebook by his wife, Jenn: “My Husband has walked out of BlackBerry for the last time! Gary you’ve been a wonderful example of integrity, faithfulness, and patience working there but I’m glad you’re out.”
In recent months the company has parted ways with other senior executives, such as long-time QNX boss Dan Dodge.
“The reality is they are really trying to make a pivot to a software business, so everything they are doing is laser-focused on that. There may be people from the legacy business who are not attuned to that,” said Cormark Securities Inc. analyst Richard Tse. Given the modest size of the layoffs, Mr. Tse does not believe they signal BlackBerry is finally preparing to exit the handset business.
“I think there’s a chance, maybe later this year, they will consider shutting that business down but I don’t think it’s now. They are still rolling the Priv out in brand new markets.”
In recent years Mr. Chen has strung together a number of acquisitions – from Good Technology to AtHoc and WatchDox – to expand BlackBerry’s mobile software offering as sales of its iconic smartphones have plummeted.
In its December earnings report, for the third quarter of BlackBerry’s fiscal year, handset sales slipped to 700,000 units shipped. At its peak, Blackberry sold more than 12 million handsets a quarter.
“My first goal is to get devices to break even. I have been very vocal: If I cannot get there, I will not keep taking my investors through that,” Mr. Chen said in December.
On Friday BlackBerry said it continued to hire in strategic areas, though it didn’t specify how many new workers that represented.
At its peak Blackberry employed close to 11,000 people in the Waterloo region. By 2014, the number was closer to 2,700.