Barnes & Noble shares drop after Nook spin-off talk

Nathan Pensky · January 20, 2012 · Short URL:

Barnes & Noble's shares have dropped 17% since all the talk of spinning off the Nook started

Remember a few weeks ago, when we reported that Barnes & Noble was planning on possibly spinning off its Nook division into a separate business? Well, it seems that the gods of finance had something to say about that. Since then, the book sellers' shares have plummeted 17%, a loss of $139 million in market value. Yikes, that's a lot of copies of David Copperfield...

It seems that said Barnes & Noble shareholder didn't want to the flagging Barnes & Noble non-digital properties to be severed from the thriving Nook division, which according to one report has grown to produce $1.5 billion in annual revenue since its 2009 launch.

At the time of the announcement of the company's Nook-spinning intentions on January 5, Barnes & Noble had just sold its publishing company, Sterling Publishing, which it had acquired in 2003 for $115 million. Non-digital book sales experienced only about 4.5% growth over 2011, and the company's Q3 reports showed a $6.6 million loss, with overall sales dropping 0.6% to $1.89 billion, as compared to $1.90 billion for the same period a year earlier.

CEO William Lynch has tried to reassure shareholders that, in spite of talk of the Nook spin-off, the company is on track.

“[The Nook] has been nothing short of vital,” said Lynch to Business Week. "Nook and Barnes & Noble [won't] sever the relationship. In fact, it’s just the opposite. We have plans to expand the footprint of Nook in our stores. We are doubling down.”

Speaking of the Nook footprint in physical Barnes & Noble stores, the company has built "Nook boutiques" in 40 of the company's largest stories, with more of these boutiques to open in 2012. They are reportedly modeled more closely after the Apple Stores, rather than conventional book stores, with minimalist design and tech-savvy employees.

As things stand, Barnes and Noble has shown signs of moving forward with the Nook spin-off, in spite of the warning signs in the stock market. An anonymous source close to ongoing talks in the upper reaches of the company's management have indicated to Business Week that the spun-off Nook business may sell a minority interest of its stock after an initial public offering, and that it hopes to be perceived as a tech business.

Barnes & Noble would maintain a majority holding of the Nook business, such that the value assigned to the Nook would be reflected in Barnes & Noble stock.

We'll have to wait and see if Barnes & Noble can keep up to compete with Amazon and Apple in the e-reader game, or if, as some have speculated, they'll go the way of their one-time competitor, Borders.

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