Shares of Palm Inc., maker of the Treo e-mail device, fell nearly 10% on concern the company might struggle to find a buyer.
Morgan Stanley is helping Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Palm evaluate options including a sale of all or part of the company, a person with knowledge of the plan said. Palm's spokeswoman, Marlene Somsak, declined to comment.
Palm may be looking to sell itself after losing orders to Research In Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry, and confronting stiffer competition from Nokia and Motorola Inc. Palm posted its first sales decline in more than three years in December and has been slow to introduce products, hurting its profitability, J.P. Morgan Securities analyst Paul Coster said.
Potential strategic buyers probably wouldn't want to pay more for Palm than what the stock is trading for now, Coster said. For private equity firms, the stock is already expensive, he said.
Palm shares fell $1.80 to $16.50, the biggest drop in eight months. The company is valued at $1.68 billion after Monday's drop.
Before Monday, speculation that Palm would be bought had propelled the stock 35% from a one-year low of $13.58 on Dec. 20. Palm may attract bids from Nokia or Motorola, said Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Lawrence Harris.
Nokia, the world's largest mobile-phone maker, would gain better access to North American carriers such as AT&T Inc. by buying Palm, Harris said. Nokia, based in Finland, lags behind Motorola, its largest competitor, in that market.
"Acquiring Palm would give Nokia instant credibility" in North America, Harris said.