Caisse’s Sabia More Interested in Colgate Than BlackBerry

Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec, Canada’s second-largest pension fund, says it’s unlikely to invest in BlackBerry Ltd. because it prefers more predictable businesses such as Coca-Cola Co. and Colgate-Palmolive Co.

“There would have to be a number of things that happen for us to have a serious interest” in BlackBerry, Michael Sabia, chief executive officer of the Montreal-based fund said in an interview yesterday. “We don’t see those on the table.” He declined to specify the issues.

Domestic pension funds, including Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Alberta Investment Management Corp., are among investors that have said they would consider joining a bid for BlackBerry, the struggling smartphone maker. Fairfax Holdings Ltd., the company’s largest shareholder, launched a tentative bid Sept. 23 to take BlackBerry private in a $4.7 billion deal. Though Fairfax hasn’t named its partners, the investor group would include a strong Canadian contingent, Fairfax CEO Prem Watsa said.

Sabia declined to say whether Fairfax approached him to invest in the Waterloo, Ontario-based device maker. He said his pension fund, which manages C$185.9 billion ($178.9 billion) in assets, hasn’t ruled out a direct investment in BlackBerry.

“We’ll keep the door open,” Sabia, 60, said. “But is it something that we’re actively and intensely working on? Not today.”

The Canadian device maker “competes in a very, very, very challenging market,” Sabia said in the phone interview. “That’s a tough business. If you miss a beat, you can be a long time trying to catch up.

Sales Drop

BlackBerry’s been losing favor after sales plunged and it cut 4,500 jobs -- a third of its workforce -- last quarter. BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins said he was ‘‘very disappointed” in the second quarter results that showed a loss as sales in the Americas dropped 56 percent to $610 million.

Caisse de Depot, which oversees pensions for retirees in the French-speaking province of Quebec, is looking to invest in companies more rooted in the economy’s expanding middle class, which include water utilities, malls, and personal-care products, Sabia said.

The Caisse held $239 million in shares of New York-based Colgate at June, according to a filing with U.S. securities regulators. The fund also held $142 million in Atlanta-based Coca-Cola. The pension plan owned 163,000 BlackBerry shares as of Dec. 31, according to its annual report.

“We are a lot more focused on toothpaste and Coca-Cola products that people use every day and are very hard to reuse,” Sabia said.

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