Research In Motion Ltd. is glowing red-hot yet again. In early afternoon trading on Wednesday, the stock was up about 12 per cent – meaning that it has risen a total of 21 per cent from Tuesday's intraday low.
Those are big gains in two days, and they suggest that a big investor is either moving in on the stock or that someone thinks that a big investor is moving in on the stock. (A rally due to the lukewarm response to Apple Inc.'s latest iPhone launch seems a bit farfetched.)
Last week, it was rumoured that Carl Icahn was taking a big position in the company, apparently with the aim of shaking things up at the BlackBerry maker. On Tuesday, there was another rumour circulating – that RIM management itself had approached an investment dealer with the purpose of exploring strategic options, code for perhaps selling the company.
The rallies have mostly been met with skepticism. Some argue that it is unusual to see takeover rumours circulating for such a long time without getting backed up by facts. Now, Bernstein Research analyst Pierre Ferragu – who has had an "underperform" recommendation on RIM for most of the past two years – says that he can't see a likely buyer for RIM, even at its distressed level.
"HTC does not have the balance sheet required for an all-cash acquisition and we believe RIM's board would be unlikely to approve a share swap offer," Mr. Ferragu said (via All Things Digital). "We believe that Microsoft still sticks to its 'no hardware' policy in terms of acquisition in the mobile space. Samsung and Apple are unlikely to look closely at the opportunity as they don't really need it and probably see as much value in letting RIM continue to lose ground than in attempted a hostile and complicated acquisition. Lastly, we do not think Google has any appetite for acquiring any hardware business. Motorola Mobility was an exception to the rule solely driven by Motorola's patent portfolio."
As for Mr. Icahn or another activist investor moving in, he points out that RIM's co-chief executives control more than 10 per cent of RIM's shares, making them the biggest shareholders by far and difficult to sway – which is hardly the sort of territory activist investors like to explore.