Continued from page 1

Where does that leave RIM? Christopher Marlett, the CEO of MDB Capital, said RIM’s patents are worth more than $1 billion, and could be worth as much as $4 billion if a bidding war develops between Apple, Google, Microsoft Corp. and perhaps Samsung Electronics Co.

“It’s a question of how aggressive they get,” Marlett said. His firm is an investment bank that focuses on intellectual property, including patents.

Walkley puts the value of RIM’s portfolio at $2.5 billion, excluding the patents RIM bought from Nortel and shares with Apple, Microsoft and other buyers.

RIM has $2.1 billion in cash, but Walkley discounts this completely, since the phone business will likely start using up cash soon, and downsizing will require severance payments. That means the email network and the patents comprise RIM’s entire value at $5.25 billion, by his estimate.

That’s very close to RIM’s current market capitalization, at $5.4 billion, though a buyer could be expected to pay a premium.

The cash cushion also means that RIM is in no imminent danger of going bankrupt. But as the shares decline, RIM is likely to face increasing pressure from shareholders to unlock the company’s value through a sale, and to abandon the comeback plan.

A possible middle ground would be to sell the patent portfolio while keeping the rest of the company. Two months ago, AOL, once a pioneering Internet service provider, sold and licensed its patents _which are more modest than RIM’s for $1 billion_ to Microsoft.

Microsoft is one company that’s been suggested as a potential RIM buyer. The software juggernaut is trying to get back into smartphone software, but its Windows Phones haven’t been popular so far. Buying RIM could give it a chance to establish itself as a provider of trusted wireless email services, though moving subscribers from BlackBerry to Windows could be challenging.


AP Technology Writer Peter Svensson contributed from New York.