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RIM BlackBerry: Would a Microsoft partnership insure recovery?

Research In Motion Ltd., the struggling maker of the BlackBerry smartphone, would be more likely to recover if it finds a strategic partner to help defray expenses, Canadian billionaire Terry Matthews said.

“Partnering is so important because it’s not on your income statement,” Matthews, the founder of Newbridge Networks Corp., said in an interview Tuesday at the Toronto Board of Trade.

An alliance with another company could help RIM with research spending and generating revenue, he said. “Partnering is an incredibly important part of the DNA of a company.” RIM Chief Executive Officer Thorsten Heins said last week that he’s met with CEOs at various organizations over the past several months to discuss software licensing and partnerships.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based company is trying to reinvigorate demand for its BlackBerry phones after losing market share to Apple Inc.’s iPhone and Google Inc.’s Android.

RIM climbed 4.8 percent to $7.86 at the close in New York. The gain, the shares’ fifth in a row, cut their decline to 46 percent this year.

Matthews declined to name any potential partners for RIM. Microsoft Corp., which like RIM counts companies as some of its biggest customers, is often cited as the most logical partner.

“Microsoft is another issue,” Matthews said when asked about the potential for a tie-up between RIM and the Redmond- Washington-based software maker. The most important thing is a good fit, he said.

“They have to have a good partner program and mutual respect,” he said. “It could make a massive difference.”

Among the 80 companies Matthews has started or backed are a handful that make technology for large wireless operators, including DragonWave Inc., Mitel Networks Corp. and Bridgewater Systems Corp. He sold Newbridge Networks Corp. to Alcatel SA in 2000 for about $7 billion.

Canadian technology companies struggle to get respect among U.S. investors, who tend to think of their North American neighbor in terms of commodity investing, Matthews said.

“People don’t actually value high-tech companies in Canada but they do in the U.S.,” he said. “Iron ore is better, iron ore, tin, zinc, lead, they love lead.”

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