updated 02:35 pm EDT, Fri March 13, 2009
RBC Upgrades Palm
Palm's designs for the Pre and webOS have spurred RBC analyst Mike Abramsky today to upgrade his rating of Palm's stock, indicating that the smartphone creator may be a takeover target due to its appeal versus the iPhone. He now expects Palm to outperform market expectations and specifically cites the Pre's hardware and software advantages as potentially leading other companies to consider a buyout. Estimates would put the company's worth at about $15 to $16 per share, or about twice the going rate for Palm's stock.
Abramsky doesn't claim to know of any deals but notes that a bid might come from both existing companies looking for webOS to those who have either no hardware, software, or either for mobile devices.
"Possible buyers include handset and hardware vendors such as RIM, Microsoft,
Nokia, Samsung, LG, Sony Ericsson, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and others," he writes, with neither Dell nor Microsoft making actual cellphones so far.
The RBC researcher singles out the Pre's hardware QWERTY keyboard as an important factor that may sway some buyers. In software, Palm is also expected to be "less restrictive" than Apple in allowing apps on to its own online store and to support a broader range of features, such as in-browser Adobe Flash (confirmed for late 2009) as well as integrated contact information from both social networking sites as well as e-mail and IM. Palm's plans to build versions for both CDMA/EVDO and GSM/HSPA networks, as well as to eventually build differently-shaped webOS phones, are also potential advantages.
While Palm carries risks, including the possibility that it may run low on funds, Abramsky is confident the company can raise enough funds to see itself through to the Pre's spring launch and turn around its fortunes. The Sunnyvale, California-based company's main obstacles are its ability to orchestrate a smooth launch as well as the difficulty of winning back defectors who left Palm's models for other devices.