BlackBerry shares rose 14% last night, fueled by takeover speculation and news that AT&Twill start selling the new BlackBerry Z10 touchscreen smartphone in the US on March 22.

The speculation was sparked by a comment from the head of China's Lenovo Group.

He told a French newspaper that the personal computer maker might consider an acquisition of Canada's BlackBerry at some point in the future.

"External growth remains a question of opportunities," said Yang Yuanqing, Lenovo's CEO, in an interview with Les chos.

"As for BlackBerry, the file could eventually make sense, but I must first analyse the market and understand the exact weight of this company," he said in response to a question about whether Lenovo would make a move on the smartphone maker.

BlackBerry, a one-time smartphone pioneer, has lost market share to Apple's iPhone, Samsung Electronics' Galaxy line and other devices powered by Google's market-leading Android operating system.

In a make-or-break move to regain market share and return to profit, BlackBerry introduced the new smartphone to much fanfare in January, and said it was abandoning its old name, Research In Motion, and renaming itself BlackBerry.

Analysts however poured cold water on the speculation that the Chinese technology giant would make a move on BlackBerry. A spokesman for Lenovo in Canada also downplayed the CEO's comment, saying, "in no way was this an indication of activity or strategic direction."

Analysts are also skeptical that the Canadian government, which in 2010 blocked mining giant BHP Billiton's $39 billion bid for Potash Corp, will easily approve a Chinese acquisition of BlackBerry.

BlackBerry is hoping the new devices, already on sale in Canada, Britain and more than 20 other countries, will help it win back market share in the US, which was once a stronghold for the smartphone industry pioneer.

The US launch of the new devices has been delayed due to a longer carrier-testing phase in the country. AT&T said pre-sales of the devices will begin today. BlackBerry says sales of its new smartphone have been outpacing its expectations so far, but investors are keen to see how it fares in the US.