Prem Watsa raises stake in BlackBerry

Samsung Galaxy, iPhone and Android-based smartphones have reduced the popularity of once-market-leader BlackBerry, but an Indian is showing faith in the troubled smartphone.

Prem Watsa, known as Warren Buffett of Canada, has raised his stake in Research In Motion (RIM), the Canadian maker of BlackBerry, indicating a belief that there’s still life left in the brand that created the smartphone category in the mobile phone industry.

prem watsa Fairfax Blackberry RIM

As the newest board member and the third-largest investor in RIM, Prem has increased his doubled stake to just under 10%, while still warning that a turnaround could take three to five years.

Prem’s share is valued at US$349.5 million.

The billionaire founder of Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. has shown confidence in the mobile-phone maker whose market value has dropped 80% in the last year year.

“He said that he’s looking to average down (his cost),” Sameet Kanade, an analyst with Canada’s Northern Securities told a media outlet. “Their investment horizon is normally three to five years — they are not looking for a quick turnaround.”

RIM, the first company to offer emails on mobile devices, expects its new offering – BlackBerry 10 (due early next year) –  to turn its fortunes around.

RIM posted its first operating loss in eight years in June 2012. RIM’s share price was $150 a few years ago. Today, it is only $7. In a desperate attempt to save the brand, RIM has decided to cut its workforce by a third, resulting in 5000 job losses.

However, Prem’s astute investment in RIM has provided a slight boost to RIM’s share price.

Born in India’s Hyderabad, the 62 year old Prem graduated from India’s prestigious the Indian Institute of Technology with a degree in chemical engineering , before going on to complete an MBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business of the University of Western Ontario.

In June 2009, he became the chancellor of the University of Waterloo.

Watsa is also on the board of the Dakshana Foundation – the charity set up by American billionaire Mohnish Pabrai, to give away 4% of his wealth, or about $2 million, in charity every year.

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