c.2013 New York Times News Service

c.2013 New York Times News Service

BlackBerry may be on its last legs, but the company still has multiple suitors.

A consortium that includes wireless company Qualcomm, private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management and BlackBerry’s co-founders, Mike Lazaridis and Doug Fregin, is preparing a bid for the company ahead of a Monday deadline, according to people briefed on the process.

Details of the group’s bid, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, were not clear. And the people briefed on the process said it could still fall apart.

But the consortium had the makings of a serious bid that could set it apart in what has become a messy auction process.

BlackBerry, once the leader in smartphones, has been overtaken by Apple with its iPhone, and a raft of devices using Google’s Android operating system. The depths of BlackBerry’s troubles became clear in recent weeks, as the company reported a quarterly loss of nearly $1 billion and a steep decline in revenues.

In Qualcomm, the group has wireless experience and a large corporate entity that could backstop BlackBerry’s losses. Cerberus brings cash to the table. And Lazaridis and Fregin own about 8 percent of the company’s equity, easing the group’s path to control.

Should the group submit a bid ahead of Monday evening’s deadline, its only competition at this point would be a highly conditional $9 a share bid from Fairfax Financial Holdings, a Canadian insurance and investment company. That bid would value BlackBerry, which is hemorrhaging cash, stuck with unsold inventory and apparently directionless, at $4.7 billion.

The offer from Fairfax, which owns about 10 percent of BlackBerry, was made last month as the company’s stock price was in a free fall. That bid was orchestrated by V. Prem Watsa, chief executive of Fairfax. But it was unclear Friday if Fairfax would be able to arrange financing for its proposed bid.

BlackBerry stock closed on Friday at $7.77 per share, but was up slightly in after-hours trading.

Other groups, including computer maker Lenovo, of China, have reportedly considered making bids for BlackBerry. But so far, few potential buyers appear to have the appetite to take over the slumping Canadian handset maker.

If the Qualcomm consortium does make an offer over the weekend, BlackBerry may announce its receipt of a proposal Monday morning. At that point, the company could potentially extend the deadline for final bids, or announce its choice of a bid as late as Tuesday morning.