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BlackBerry Said to Negotiate for Tax Refund of up to $1B

BlackBerry Losses
BlackBerry Ltd. has reported losses in five of the past seven quarters, with the red ink amounting to $646 million in the last fiscal year. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

BlackBerry Ltd., which is shoring up its finances after a $4.7 billion buyout deal fell through, is seeking a tax refund of as much as $1 billion before the end of the year, according to two people familiar with the situation.

The company is negotiating for a larger refund than previously disclosed and asking the Canadian government to speed up the process, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. The Waterloo, Ontario-based company said in a filing last month that it expected to receive a $500 million rebate from the government in the first half of fiscal 2015, which begins in March. Now it’s aiming to get the refund before the end of calendar 2013, the people said.

BlackBerry is probably applying recent business losses against taxable income from earlier years to generate a refund, said Geoffrey Loomer, a professor of tax law at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. A company that has a loss can carry it forward up to 20 years and back up to three years, letting it generate refunds by lowering the amount of tax it owes from profitable years. It’s possible BlackBerry is trying to do this on an accelerated schedule, he said.

Aggressively pursuing tax refunds would give BlackBerry more breathing room as new interim Chief Executive Officer John Chen charts a comeback strategy. He is taking the helm after the collapse this week of a takeover bid by Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd., BlackBerry’s largest investor. The mobile-phone company also is raising $1 billion in a debt sale and looking to unload real estate, equipment and other assets.

Sam Papadopoulos, a spokesman for Canada’s federal tax agency, said it doesn’t comment on specific cases. Lisette Kwong, a spokeswoman for BlackBerry, declined to comment.

Red Ink

BlackBerry has reported losses in five of the past seven quarters, with the red ink amounting to $646 million in the last fiscal year. It posted a loss of $965 million in the most recent quarter, mostly because the company wrote down unsold phone inventory after weak sales of its Z10 model.

BlackBerry shares, which fell 16 percent on Nov. 4 after the takeover plan was scrapped, dropped 0.2 percent to $6.66 at the close today in New York. The stock has declined 44 percent this year.

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