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Ailing BlackBerry hangs for sale sign

Following reports of a "change of tone" on the BlackBerry board, the company has now effectively hung a for sale sign on its Ontario headquarters.

In a statement the struggling smartphone maker announced the formation of a special committee to "explore strategic alternatives", which could include an outright sale as well as joint ventures, partnerships and "other possible transactions".

Without mention of the battle to return to profits and save the company, which is now worth just $4.8 billion (£3.1 billion) compared to a 2008 peak of $84 billion (£54 billion), the statement said the move is designed "to enhance value and increase scale in order to accelerate BlackBerry 10 deployment".

The committee will include CEO Thorsten Heins and company chair Barbara Stymiest. It will be headed by Timothy Dattels.

"As the Special Committee focuses on exploring alternatives, we will be continuing with our strategy of reducing cost, driving efficiency and accelerating the deployment of BES 10, as well as driving adoption of BlackBerry 10 smartphones, launching the multi-platform BBM social messaging service, and pursuing mobile computing opportunities," said Heins.

BlackBerry, an original pioneer in smartphone development, has failed to keep up with the growth and dominance of iPhone and Android, particularly with device consumers' focus shifting from work and email to entertainment.

The company's market share in the US has collapsed from 50 per cent in 2009 to just three per cent. The launch of the new flagship Z10 smartphone running on the BlackBerry 10 OS did little to halt the decline - last quarter the company posted losses of $84 million.

"They have suffered a fate a lot of big guys suffer from. They were the first to market, they created the smartphone as we know it. They just didn't see what was coming next," comments Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at tech advisory firm Gartner.

Chinese tech firm Lenovo has been tipped as a possible buyer after a senior exec at the company suggested the firm might consider taking over BlackBerry to boost its smartphone business, but as BlackBerry accepts, "there can be no assurance" that a buyer or partner will be found.