Blackberry Is a Pricey IoT Wager With Uncertain Payoff Potential

Stocks to sell

At just above $11.20 per share, BlackBerry (NYSE:BB) has held onto a decent chunk of its 2021 meme stock gains. The question now is whether that will stay the case for BB stock once the meme stock phenomenon finally comes to an end.

BB stock

Source: Paul McKinnon/Shutterstock.com

My colleagues here at InvestorPlace are split on its post-meme prospects. Per Larry Ramer, the company’s partnerships with Google parent Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL,GOOG), Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), and Okta (NASDAQ:OKTA) may pave the way for it to get bought out by one of them.

Taking a more bearish view, Will Ashworth doesn’t see an Alphabet takeover (or a Qualcomm takeover) as something that’s likely to happen.

As Ashworth argues, instead of paying up for the IoT (internet of things) and cybersecurity solutions provider either tech giant could simply partner with it instead. There’s no need to buy the company to have access to its QNX auto operating system.

You can extend this argument to Okta, and the potential for it to buy the company for its Spark security business.

So, with this split of opinion, which one is on the right track? The jury’s still out. On one hand, at today’s prices, the company sports a rich valuation.

On the other hand, given the long-term potential of IoT, its valuation may be more than reasonable.

Barring a takeover bid from one of its deeper-pocketed partners, it’ll all come down to whether the company can start reversing its multi-year revenue decline starting next fiscal year (ending February 2023).

BB Stock Has More Than Meme Status on Its Side

In the pecking order of meme stocks, Blackberry is on the second tier. The first tier, of course, is made up of AMC Entertainment (NYSE:AMC) and GameStop (NYSE:GME).

Other names in this category include Bed, Bath & Beyond (NASDAQ:BBBYClover Health (NASDAQ:CLOV), ContextLogic (NASDAQ:WISH).

However, while facing its own set of challenges, the prospects of BB stock may be stronger than for BBBY, CLOV, and WISH. Bed, Bath & Beyond needs to ride out what may be a tough holiday season for the home goods retailer.

Clover needs to get over its continued profitability issues, and show it’s on the path to getting out of the red as it scales up in size. ContextLogic needs its turnaround to go off without a hitch.

In the case of Blackberry, with the company moving along with the sale of its patents, soon it will be able to fully move on from its legacy business and focus 100% of its efforts towards the two businesses (QNX and Spark) it is betting its future on.

The above-mentioned partnership deals are promising. They all help to bolster the case that the former smartphone maker is no “also ran” in either industry.

That said, the pressure’s on for it to deliver growth-wise in the quarters ahead. BlackBerry needs to beat expectations just to maintain its current stock price. To make its way to, say, $15-$20 per share, it needs to handily beat expectations.

Valuing This Company Is More Art Than Science

Trading for 6.8x estimated FY23 sales, you have to pay up for BB stock. Despite the fact that not just market commentators, but sell-side analysts as well, are split about its future prospects.

According to the Wall Street Journal, analyst price targets for Blackberry range from a low of $4.50 per share, to a high of $20 per share.

Much of this may have to do with the difficulty of penciling in a value for the company’s IoT unit. Based on the numbers Will Ashworth provided in his article, the IoT business will generate just $166 million this fiscal year. This may imply that its long-term potential is baked into the current stock price.

However, it may not be fair to value this unit based upon this year’s results alone. The global chip shortage, which has affected automotive production, has had an indirect impact on revenue for its flagship IoT platform, QNX. Its results once this headwind clears up could be far greater than currently anticipated.

Also, there’s the prospect of the Automotive IoT industry growing by around 25.2% per year, through 2027. This too could suggest that QNX will see an even more rapid rate of growth in the years ahead.

Bottom Line: It All Comes Down to Results

With Blackberry, there’s merit to both the bull case and the bear case. Given what happened to its legacy smartphone business, it’s easy to see its cyber and IoT units facing a similar fate. It’s far from certain, but there is a path for both units to thrive in the coming years.

The issue is that the company is still sporting meme stock status. That means there’s no discount despite the uncertainty. With this in mind, side with the bears for now with BB stock.

On the date of publication, Thomas Niel did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

Thomas Niel, a contributor for InvestorPlace.com, has been writing single-stock analysis for web-based publications since 2016.

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