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Mar 31, 2017

'There’s no danger': John Chen on BlackBerry's turnaround

'There’s no danger': John Chen on BlackBerry's turnaround

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BlackBerry shares soared on Friday after the company unexpectedly reported an adjusted fourth-quarter profit.

Chief Executive Officer John Chen joined BNN for a feature interview to discuss the company’s future, the pain of cutting jobs and more.

Here are some highlights from his conversation with Amber Kanwar.

On previous job cuts

“Unfortunately, when we shifted the business we had to let go of people, because otherwise the company would not survive and that’s really painful. But, one of the things about turnarounds is you have to deal with painful things as well as good things.”

On the turnaround

“We are executing. There’s no danger of the company financially being in trouble. We added more cash. We’ve got $1.1 billion in net cash and we paid down our debt by more than half a couple quarters ago … so we are definitely executing.”

On what to do with that cash

“We need to invest. It will be investing internally, it will be a combination of both [investing and M&A] -- but we will acquire.”

On getting a BlackBerry into Donald Trump’s hands

“We have a partnership with [former New York City Mayor Rudy] Giuliani and maybe he could help me. I’d love to. This is obviously managed by White House communications. [Former] President Obama uses a BlackBerry so I’m hoping that President Trump will too.”

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On what will help the share price rebound

“Execution is enough. We have a great line-up of products and a strategy. The market seems to be right for us. Look at enterprise security, devices and autos. That’s what everybody is talking about, every day. We could be the backbone of all that.”

On partnership with Ford and future auto market opportunities

“Ford happens to be quite strategic – to us, at least … I hope it is to them, but to us, definitely. The fact that we have so many people that they are depending on to design the car of the future, I think is a very good indicator of our future.”

“Within this fiscal year I expect to have at least another [partnership], if not more. It’s an exciting market.”

On moving beyond “infotainment”

“Infotainment is a big market because almost every connected car needs one, but it’s commoditizing. We need to move the per-car revenue up and the only way to move the per-car revenue up is to come up with more sophisticated applications than the newer ones.”

“This is one of the reasons I believe that manufacturers like Ford like working with us. If [we’re] just merely [an] infotainment provider, they could get [that] from a lot of people.”

On Samsung’s Galaxy Note blow-up

“You can never underestimate Samsung. [They’re] a partner of ours and we like to manage their phones. I wish them every luck.”

“The fact that they pushed out an S8 means that they have identified and solved their problems. Otherwise they wouldn’t risk another financial and reputational issue. So they must have addressed it already… I wish them to be successful and, besides, eight is a good number in the Asian world.”