Qualcomm Invests in Handspring

Struggling handheld vendor Handspring Wednesday announced two stock-related actions to help it raise more money.

The company announced that it was offering the public 7 million shares of common stock at $5.50 per share. The stock is a follow-on to a so-called S3 shelf registration submitted in November and approved by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) earlier in December.

Credit Suisse First Boston, which is managing hate offering, has a 30-day option to purchase as many as 1,050,000 shares.

Separately, wireless technology vendor Qualcomm has agreed to purchase about 1.8 million shares of Handspring common stock, which it valued at about $10 million. Qualcomm holds patents and sells chipsets and other technology for CDMA wireless systems, which are widely used by wireless operators in North America.

However, Handspring recently announced its Treo hybrid phone-PDA, which initially will be sold for systems using GSM-related technology, which is widely used in Europe and in parts of Asia. Handspring also said it would release a CDMA version of the device after the initial GSM release.

Handspring was co-founded by Donna Dubinsky and Jeff Hawkins, who also founded the original Palm company, in late 1999 and it went public about mid-year 2000. It quickly grabbed a 15 percent market share in the handheld market, according to market studies, mostly taken out of the hide of Palm.

Palm is both a partner and a competitor since Handspring bases its devices on the Palm OS. However, both Palm and Handspring have seen their market share eaten away in the last few quarters by devices based on Microsoft’s Pocket PC platform, particularly Compaq’s iPAQ handhelds.

However, despite the Pocket PC gains, market share studies still indicate that the two vendors combined still are responsible for the majority of handheld sales, even with their own sales declining. Handspring had a 13 percent decrease in sales for its most recently-reported quarter.

Wall Street rumors in November had it that Palm and Handspring would merge to create a unified front against the Pocket PC onslaught, but those rumors never panned out.

David Haskin is managing editor of sister site, allNetDevices.

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