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BlackBerry now in hiring mode: John Chen

BlackBerry CEO John Chen

The restructuring of BlackBerry Ltd. which saw the drastic sale of its assets and pruning by the thousands of its workforce, is now over and the Canadian company can now begin hiring again, according to memo for CEO John Chen.

Since 2011, BlackBerry has shed nearly 60 per cent of its employees as it struggled to regain market share in the smart phone business which it once dominated but is now ruled by Apple’s iPhone and a host of handsets running the Android mobile operating system.

However in a memo obtained by newswire service Reuters, Chen, who replaced then BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins in January, told the company’s employees that BlackBerry has “completed the restructuring notification process, and the workforce reduction began three years ago is now behind us.”

A month before he took over the reins of BlackBerry, the company reported a loss of US$4.4 billion. The new smart phones based on the BlackBerry 10 platform, unveiled by Heins, also suffered from poor adoption rates.

From a peak of 17,500 some three years ago, BlackBerry’s workforce has shrunk to just 7,000, Chen said as he explained that the company is now capable of making strategic acquisitions to drive future growth.

The company will now be “adding headcount” in areas such as sales and customer service, according to Chen who is known as being a turn-around expert.

In Q1 this year, BlackBerry reported only a one per cent drop in revenue. Although sales still lag behind the iPhone and Android devices, BlackBerry reported smart phone sales of 1.6 compared to 1.3 in the previous quarter. Cash levels rose to $3.1 billion, thanks to a tax refund of $397 million and real estate sales of $287 million.

Last, week BlackBerry announced its purchase of German voice and data encryption firm Secusmart. The technology developed by Secusmart encrypts communications between devices to combat mobile eavesdropping. Chen said the technology will be used in the BB10 smart phones and Secusmart will be run as a standalone division and will be the “cornerstone” of BlackBerry’s security offering.

BlackBerry has also been experimenting with different ways to monetize its technology. For instance, last month it announced that it will be offering its BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 secure mobile management solution as a hosted service for channel partners and business customers.

BlackBerry also recently released an upgrade to its device management system, signed several secure mobile payment deals with other companies, released lower-cost handsets in emerging markets and also unveiled a new smart phone called the Passport. The company is poised to launch the Passport, the BlackBerry Classic smart phone and BES 12 by the end of this year.