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AIMCo's head says BlackBerry proposals lacked a turnaround plan

A Blackberry logo is seen at the Blackberry campus in Waterloo, September 23, 2013. REUTERS/Mark Blinch
A Blackberry logo is seen at the Blackberry campus in Waterloo, September 23, 2013. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

By Scott Haggett

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - The head of one of Canada's top pension funds confirmed on Thursday his firm was involved in talks over a potential buyout of BlackBerry Ltd but said he never saw a business plan he was confident would turn around the once-dominant smartphone maker.

Leo de Bever, chief executive of the C$70 billion ($66.6 billion) Alberta Investment Management Corp (AIMCo), said all of Canada's biggest pension funds were involved in discussions over BlackBerry's fate earlier this year as it looked to sell itself following the unsuccessful launch of a new line of phones.

However, de Bever said AIMCo was never presented with a business plan that would have justified an investment in the company that was at one-time a darling in the technology sector.

"You had six or seven entities darting in and out with various propositions," he told reporters. "But there was never a unified business plan to say 'Okay, this is what we need to do'."

Blackberry earlier this month abandoned plans to take itself private after holding discussions with Microsoft Corp, Apple Inc, Google Inc and others.

Instead, the company opted to replace its CEO and borrow $1 billion from a group of investors including its top shareholder Fairfax Financial Holdings, Canso Investment Counsel, Mackenzie Financial, Markel Corp, Qatar Holding, Brookfield Asset Management, and Manulife Financial.

"What they ended up doing was raising a billion dollars but what are they going to do with it?" asked de Bever. "I haven't seen anything that basically says 'Okay, this is step two, three and four'."

De Bever said he believes BlackBerry retains considerable value in its assets that could be better developed, including its patent portfolio, real estate and cash. But he adds that while he is rooting for the re-emergence of the company, AIMCo will not invest in the company until it can again demonstrate it has a plan to revitalize its business.

"I can't be Canada Inc. I can't be out there supporting BlackBerry just because it's a Canadian company. I can only do it when there is a strategy that makes sense for us to work along with," he said. "If such a strategy emerges of course we would look a it."

($1 = 1.0512 Canadian dollars)

(Editing by Andrew Hay)

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