Good News for Malone, Liberty: B&N’s Nook Forecast is Positive

(Reuters) – Barnes & Noble Inc reported a narrower quarterly loss as strong sales of the largest bookstore chain’s Nook e-reader helped mitigate declining book sales.

The retailer forecast sales of Nook and its e-books would more than double this fiscal year to $1.8 billion, sending shares up 17 percent to $13.33 on Tuesday morning.

Sales of the Nook, the second-best selling e-reader after Inc’s Kindle, and digital books reached $277 million during the first quarter, or nearly 20 percent of overall revenue.

Barnes & Noble put itself up for sale a year ago and attracted only one firm offer, a bid in May from John Malone’s Liberty Media Corp, which ultimately decided to invest $204 million, which will be used primarily to keep the Nook competitive, rather than buy the company outright.

The bookseller’s chief executive, William Lynch, said in a statement that the strategy to focus on the Nook was “paying off” and that Barnes & Noble would continue to invest “appropriately” in the Nook, which also competes with Apple Inc’s iPad.

Barnes & Noble expects a full-year loss between 10 cents and 50 cents per share, compared with a loss of 16 cents per share analysts, on average, were expecting, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Barnes & Noble, which operates 704 bookstores, said sales this fiscal year should receive a $150 million to $200 million lift once its long-time rival, bankrupt Borders Group Inc, is done with its liquidation.

Overall, the chain expects sales of $7.4 billion for the fiscal year, which will end in April, in line with estimates.

The company expects same-store sales at its bookstores to rise 2 to 3 percent and to be flat at its College division.

Sales at its namesake superstores open at least 15 months fell 1.6 percent during the first quarter, which ended on July 30, while same-store sales at its College Bookstore chain were down 1.8 percent. Online sales, helped by Nook, accounting for 14 percent of sales, rose 37 percent to $198 million.
Barnes & Noble had a loss of $56.6 million, or 99 cents per share, in the first quarter ended July 30, compared with a loss of $62.5 million, or $1.12, a year ago.

(Reporting by Phil Wahba; Editing by Derek Caney and Matthew Lewis)