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BlackBerry reaches deal to sell big chunk of its Canadian real estate

Canada-based BlackBerry is moving ahead with plans to sell off a large chunk of its home-turf real estate as CEO John Chen endeavors to streamline costs as part of his ongoing battle to turn the company around and return it to relevancy.

The plan to sell off the majority of its Canadian real estate holdings – comprising more than three million square feet of floor space in around 20 buildings – first came to light a couple of months back when Chen claimed the sale would “further enhance BlackBerry’s financial flexibility.”

And to reassure those working at its long-time base in Waterloo, Ontario, the newly installed CEO added that the company “remains committed to being headquartered” there.

BlackBerry announced over the weekend that it had recently struck a deal to sell off much of its real estate, adding that terms of the transaction would be announced only when the principal conditions were satisfied.

The company said the sale is “part of BlackBerry’s ongoing program to improve operational efficiencies, optimize resource usage and shift resources to support operations as the business continues to evolve.”

The news comes just days after BlackBerry laid off 120 workers in Waterloo, a move reported to be part of the company’s long-standing plan to cut its workforce by 40 percent by May this year. The workers were based at the company’s BlackBerry 2 site in Waterloo, one of five buildings sold to the University of Waterloo for $41 million in December last year. Several of the buildings are being leased back to the company, the university said at the time.

Earlier this month, Chen said in a rather frank interview with the Financial Times that he believes there’s a “50/50 chance” of BlackBerry being able to make a go of it second time around.

Responding to a question about whether he thought the company could ever return to the powerful position it once held in the mobile sector, Chen responded by saying that “if we do it correctly, it could be a dominant player again,” pointing to Apple as an example of a tech firm that succeeded in digging itself out of a very deep hole.

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