Investor Prem Watsa Doubles Stake in Research in Motion to 10%
Prem Watsa, chief executive of Fairfax and a Canadian investor who’s also called the “Warren Buffett of the North,” has nearly doubled his company’s stake in the struggling BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd, according to a regulatory filing.
Watsa moved up from owning 5.12% in January – when he joined RIM as a board member after Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis left — to almost 10% of the company, which makes Watsa the largest shareholder of the Canadian company whose market value has dropped nearly 80 percent over the past year as its share of the smartphone market has tumbled.
Watsa’s 9.9% stake represents 51.9 million shares, which are valued at C$356.2 million.
In upping its stake, Fairfax reaffirmed its support for RIM’s new chief executive, Thorsten Heins, and its new BlackBerry 10 devices, on which the company is betting heavily. The BlackBerry 10 OS is due out early next year.
“We strongly believe that Thorsten Heins is singularly focused on the success of RIM and its BB10,” said a spokesman for the company, “and we firmly support him and the entire BlackBerry team working tirelessly to bring this exciting new platform to market.”
Watsa, an Indian-born Canadian, has built a reputation as a shrewd contrarian investor by making moves such as betting against the U.S. housing market in the last decade and reaping billions when the market collapsed. But Sameet Kanade, an analyst at Northern Securities in Toronto, said the investment in RIM may not be a win for Watsa:
“…not all of their plays go right — even Warren Buffett is the first one to admit some of his investments have gone wrong,” he said.
Seeing as how Tru has also invested heavily into the upcoming OS, here’s hoping this is one of those winning plays.