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Sep 28, 2017

Chen sees 'more good quarters than bad' at Blackberry, but no 'smooth sailing'

The three areas where John Chen sees BlackBerry investing its cash

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BlackBerry (BB.TO) shares surged Thursday after the company beat expectations with revenue from its software and services business hitting a record in its second fiscal quarter.

John Chen, the company’s chief executive officer, sat down with BNN’s Amber Kanwar to discuss everything from BlackBerry’s growth plan, to cybersecurity, to a deal with a carmaker that’s in the works.

Here are some of the highlights from their conversation:

ON BLACKBERRY’S GROWTH

“We know there’s enough there to meet the 10-to-15 per cent growth target that I laid out in the beginning of the year. I have said in the past that where we are as BlackBerry, with the strategic foundation we’ve laid down, the growth area we’ve focused on, we are going to have more good quarters than bad. But it’s not going to be smooth sailing…[without] bumps in the road. Not yet.”

ON AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES

“I think [autonomous cars] will be more prevalent by 2025. I feel good about the position we’re in. I’m working on [a deal with a carmaker]. They’re doing a lot of work with our technology people. There’s a lot to do. But it’s promising…We’re not there yet, but we’re close.”

ON CASH

“If we could consistently generate cash…I wouldn’t mind spending the majority of that. But I’m a conservative guy. I believe that you almost always have to have something to weather the storm if there’s a storm out there. I would say we’d probably spend the majority of the US$1.9 billion investing in our business – but it’s not going to be every penny. I like auto. I like cybersecurity. I think those are the two major things. And maybe some enterprise software that enhances our offerings.”



ON BLACKBERRY’S TRANSFORMATION  

“We are able to transform what was really great at BlackBerry when we were making phones into what is really great now on the market. A lot of the know-how and DNA and [intellectual property] value – a lot of those are a similar thing. We just transported it to a higher-growth market.”

ON CYBERSECUTIY

“We have product to make the anti-hacking [software] more sophisticated. But it’s never going to be un-hackable. This is not possible. And the reason is: as long as you are on the Internet…you are vulnerable to some degree. It’s like having locks on doors. I have the most sophisticated locks, so it would be easier to hack other people than to hack me.”

ON TAX REFORM

“I am not a high tax proponent…I really believe that we should make doing business easier, and people to have the ability to keep more of what they earn and therefore they will spend more and make the economy move...Raising tax doesn’t make a ton of sense.”