BlackBerry stock falls as revenue comes up short amid patent-sale negotiations

BlackBerry Ltd. revenue failed to live up to expectations Tuesday, whether adjusted or not, and shares fell in the extended session as executives described negotiations to sell patents that bring in licensing revenue.

BlackBerry
BB,
+1.52%

on Tuesday afternoon reported fourth-quarter losses of $315 million, or 56 cents a share, after posting losses of 7 cents a share a year ago. After adjusting the changed value of convertible debt added more than $250 million to the bottom line, the Canadian tech company reported earnings of 3 cents a share, down from adjusted earnings of 9 cents a share a year ago.

Revenue for the fourth quarter was $210 million, down from $282 million in the same period last year. Analysts on average expected adjusted earnings of 3 cents a share on sales of $245 million.

BlackBerry reported adjusted revenue of $215 million, part of a practice of reporting non-GAAP revenue, or revenue that does not conform with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, that started in 2019. The company recently told the Securities and Exchange Commission it would halt that practice, which MarketWatch detailed beginning in 2019 as being against SEC rules, in the current fiscal year.

Executives attributed some of the revenue shortfall to limited patent-licensing, explaining that BlackBerry is attempting to sell some patents to an unnamed buyer.

“We entered into an exclusive negotiation with a North American party for the sale of a portion of the company’s portfolio, primarily related to mobile-devices messaging and wireless networking,” Chief Executive John Chen said in a conference call Tuesday afternoon, later adding that BlackBerry “limited these licensing activities in the quarter due to the negotiations and because of accounting rules.”

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BlackBerry sold some patents to Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. earlier this year and struck a patent-licensing agreement with Facebook Inc.
FB,
-0.97%
.

While BlackBerry is widely known for its early mobile phones that included physical keyboards, it has transitioned into a software company focused on cybersecurity and automotive markets. Reports out of Canada have suggested the company is looking to cash out on patents related to mobile technologies it helped to pioneer while holding on to intellectual property related to cybersecurity.

For BlackBerry’s full fiscal year of 2020, which concluded at the end of February, the company reported adjusted earnings of 18 cents a share on GAAP sales of $893 million.

Chen noted that a 2021 forecast was made difficult by the patent negotiations. He said that if a sale does not go through, BlackBerry would expect $100 million in annual licensing revenue. For its core software and services business, Chen projected annual sales of $675 million to $715 million. Analysts on average were projecting annual sales of $1.02 billion, according to FactSet.

The company’s stock became popular late last year, pushing prices to a five-year high, but has retreated from its highs — a dynamic that was largely responsible for the fair-value adjustment that boosted adjusted earnings. Shares fell more than 7% in after-hours trading Tuesday following the release of the results, after closing the regular session with a 1.5% gain at $9.34. The stock has more than doubled in the past year, gaining 138.9% as the S&P 500 index
SPX,
-0.32%

has increased 51.2%.

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