24 August 2010

Brawl With Burkle Weighs On Barnes & Noble


Barnes & Noble continues to struggle with sluggish sales, as exhibited by its fiscal 2011 first quarter results, not to mention its fight with billionaire investor Ron Burkle, the legal fees of which have been taking big bites out of the bookseller's bottom line.

During the quarter sales at Barnes & Noble ( BKS - news - people ) reached $1.4 billion, ahead of the $1.2 billion reported in last year's corresponding period. By segment, Barnes & Noble store sales fell 2% to $1 billion, though its online sales increased by 42% to $145 million.

On the bottom-line side, the company reported a loss of $63 million, or $1.12 per share, well below last year's earnings of $12.3 million, or 21 cents per share. Excluding its legal expenses, the first quarter loss was $1.02 per share, in-line with previously issued guidance of $0.85 to $1.15 per share. Wall Street, which typically excludes one-time charges, had expected a loss of 80 cents per share.

"The company made significant strides executing its digital strategy during the first quarter, and all our key metrics on the digital business are well ahead of plan," said William Lynch, chief executive officer of Barnes & Noble. The firm is the creator of electronic reading device Nook.

No matter, investors weren't happy with the report as the company's shares dropped 5.6%, or 84 cents per share, to $14.14. Meanwhile shares of peers such as Borders Group ( BGP - news - people ) fell 6.7%, Books-A-Million ( BAMM - news - people ) 2.4% and Amazon.com ( AMZN - news - people ) 2.5%.

The company's board has been looking to sell the firm in order to increase shareholder value, but buyers have been hard to come by.

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