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BlackBerry Maker Offers $53 Million For Certicom

The acquisition would help Research In Motion boost its security and help fight off a growing number of Apple iPhone devices in the enterprise market.

In a move to bolster its security, Research In Motion said Wednesday it plans to make an unsolicited takeover bid for data encryption specialist Certicom.

The BlackBerry maker said it will make an offer to acquire all of the issued and outstanding shares of Certicom for $1.21 per share, a premium of roughly 76% over the current share price. The bid values Certicom at over $53 million, and RIM said it would be funded by cash on hand.

RIM said Certicom would be a "natural fit" for the smartphone maker because Certicom is a worldwide leader in device security with Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC), which is used for the majority of BlackBerry security operations. RIM currently licenses Certicom's technology, and the BlackBerry maker has been in acquisition negotiations with the company since February 2007.

"As we are unable to engage Certicom management in a meaningful dialogue to advance the terms of a potential transaction, we believe it is in the best interests of our respective shareholders, employees and customers to make this attractive offer directly to Certicom shareholders now," said RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie, in a statement.

The takeover bid will be acceptable 35 calendar days from the official offer, which will take place Dec. 12.

The move comes after RIM unexpectedly announced Tuesday night it was lowering its profit outlook for the third quarter due to a poor exchange rate and weak subscriber growth. Despite this, the company did say it experienced "strong momentum in recent weeks" thank to the high-profile releases of the BlackBerry Bold and the touch-screen Storm.

While RIM has targeted the casual market with handsets like the BlackBerry Flip and Storm, the company's bread and butter is the enterprise market. RIM is still the market leader with enterprises mainly due to the security capabilities of its BlackBerry handset, but it is facing stiff competition from Apple's iPhone, Nokia's N97, and HTC's Google G1 smartphone. Despite only offering one handset, Apple outsold RIM in smartphones last quarter, and mobile workers increasingly want to use their iPhone 3G with corporate networks.

But many IT departments are still hesitant to let Apple's handsets access their corporate networks due to security concerns. This acquisition could create tighter integration of Certicom's products with BlackBerry devices, as well as lead to future handsets that are designed with stronger ECC protocols. Additionally, the purchase should cement RIM's reputation as the maker of the most-secure smartphone on the market.

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