By Euan Rocha
TORONTO (Reuters) - BlackBerry Ltd's shares took a beating on Wednesday after IBM Corp outlined plans to partner with Apple Inc to sell iPhones and iPads loaded with applications for business users.
The Apple-IBM tie up, beginning this fall, is set to target the customer base that BlackBerry needs to woo as part of a turnaround under new Chief Executive Officer John Chen.
"It is not a crushing blow at this early stage, but it is a negative for BlackBerry," said IDC analyst John Jackson. "There can be little question that it is unwelcome, if not entirely unexpected news."
BlackBerry's stock has been on a tear this year. As of Tuesday, it was up more than 50 percent as some investors became more optimistic about the company's future.
News of the Apple-IBM venture took some of the steam out of the stock on Wednesday.
BlackBerry shares fell 9.4 percent to $10.24 on Nasdaq and 9.3 percent to C$11.03 on the Toronto Stock Exchange after analysts said the alliance could hurt the turnaround plans.
IBM said late Tuesday the tie-up will offer services geared toward security and mobile device management, an area viewed as BlackBerry's strong suit and a key selling point in its battle to win back market share from the iPhone and devices powered by Google Inc's Android software.
"The partnership's software around data security and device
management pose immediate threats to mobile device management (MDM) software solutions deployed by firms such as BlackBerry and MobileIron ," said Morningstar analyst Brian Colello in a note to clients.
"Even if Apple-IBM's security 'mousetrap' isn't as good as ones offered by BlackBerry and others, these MDM vendors will
have to overcome the extremely high hurdle of displacing IBM's mobile device software preloaded on iPhones and iPads."
BlackBerry downplayed the threat posed by the alliance.
"The news that Apple is partnering with IBM to expand into the enterprise mobility market only underscores the ongoing need for secure end-to-end enterprise mobility solutions like those BlackBerry has delivered for years," said the company in a brief statement.
BlackBerry said it remained the leader in this market, with the necessary software and network to secure data for enterprise clients.
UBS analyst Amitabh Passi warned, however, that competition for Blackberry in the enterprise mobile management market is set to intensify after recent deals such as IBM's acquisition of Fiberlink, VMware's takeover of AirWatch and the Citrix-Zenprise deal.
"Blackberry now finds itself competing against much larger and established enterprise vendors, as well as smaller, but better capitalized vendors like Mobileiron," said Passi in a note to clients.
The shares of Mobileiron Inc , a small recently listed player in the sector, also fell sharply - down nearly 6 percent at $8.16 in afternoon trading on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Euan Rocha; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Andre Grenon)