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Reticent Wall St suggests a new course for BlackBerry

Doubts about the $4.7bn (£2.9bn) fire sale of Blackberry were evident on Wall Street yesterday as the ailing smartphone maker's shares remained stuck below the price offered by its largest shareholder, with experts suggesting a break-up of the business could now be the best option for the Canadian firm.

Pierre Ferragu, a senior analyst at Bernstein in London, said the private equity firm Fairfax's offer to buy BlackBerry was "a letter of intent agreement" and there were "material" risks it would fail.

The $9-a-share takeover approach "will turn into a definitive offer only after due diligence and once financing is secured", Mr Ferragu said, as Blackberry's shares fell by nearly 3 per cent to $8.57 in mid-afternoon trading on the Nasdaq index.

"Fairfax doesn't seem to have entered any formal obligation to complete the deal," he added, urging clients to sell BlackBerry shares, which have dived from a 2008 peak of $149 as it has fallen far behind rivals such as Apple and Samsung.

Roberta Cozza, a director at research firm Gartner, suggested BlackBerry's patents, business services and its free BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) text-messaging platform would all appeal to different buyers. "I think the value is in the different divisions than altogether," Ms Cozza said.

She warned that BlackBerry's phones had now fallen out of favour with consumers to such an extent that it could be impossible to turn around that side of the business.

But the delay before Fairfax made a formal takeover bid meant other buyers could emerge, she said.