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RIM Considers Breakup, Sale of Handset Unit, Sunday Times Says

Research In Motion Ltd. is considering selling its handset-manufacturing unit or a stake in the whole company, the Sunday Times newspaper reported, without saying where it got the information.

The BlackBerry maker, which hired JPMorgan Chase & Co. and RBC Capital Markets to help evaluate its options, may divest the handset division or break it off into a separate listed company, the paper said. Another option would be selling a stake in Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM to a larger technology firm, such as Microsoft Corp., according to the report.

RIM said in May that the two banks would help it evaluate options, including forging partnerships, licensing its software and “strategic business model alternatives.” Chief Executive Officer Thorsten Heins, who took over from co-founders Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie in January, are considering strategy changes after the company lost customers to Apple Inc.’s iPhone and devices running Google Inc.’s Android.

Heins has said the best way to drive value for stakeholders is to execute on a plan to turn the company around, and “this remains true,” RIM said today in an e-mailed statement.

Frank Shaw, a Microsoft spokesman, declined to comment on the Sunday Times report. Potential buyers for the handset division include Inc., the newspaper said. Drew Herdener, a spokesman for Amazon, declined to comment.

RIM investor Vic Alboini, chairman of the Toronto-based investment firm Jaguar Financial Corp., has urged RIM to sell itself since last September. He’s also called for a breakup of the company.

The loss in market-share has led to five straight quarters of sales shortfalls at RIM. The company is cutting jobs to help trim $1 billion in operating expenses.

The shakeup may lead to job reductions of 2,000 to 3,000, assuming RIM tries to eliminate 30 percent of the targeted operating expenses through labor reductions, according to Sameet Kanade, an analyst at Northern Securities Inc. in Toronto. The move follows a round of 2,000 cuts announced about a year ago.

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