Is There Hope for Barnes & Noble?

Who ever thought $1 billion would be hard to come by?

You may recall that Liberty Media (Nasdaq: LCAPA  ) proposed to buy book chain Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS  ) back in May for roughly $1 billion, or $17 in cash per share. Investors may have gotten a little ahead of themselves after the offer, bidding shares all the way above $21 within the following month, even though the company has been upfront that this proposal may not lead to any definitive acquisition offer.

The latest reports are now further dimming the possibility of an all-out acquisition due to financing constraints, in favor of Liberty making an investment instead. The possible deal had previously been scaled down to Liberty taking a 70% stake, but yesterday’s reports failed to elaborate on how much Liberty Media may invest. That uncertainty has led disappointed shareholders to punish the stock as much as 12% yesterday on the news. Liberty Media’s own recent earnings press release included a vague statement that it is “seeking to acquire a significant stake in Barnes & Noble.”

I’m with fellow Fool Rick Munarriz: This deal doesn’t make sense. Retail bookstores are going by the wayside. At least B&N is trying to keep up with Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) with its Nook. That’s more than Borders could boast. To be clear, I think Barnes & Nobles is dead in the water. The company still operates more than 1,300 bricks-and-mortar locations, which have mostly posted declining comparable sales over the last five years. The Nook can try, but there’s no way it can stand up to the Kindle.

Anything short of a full acquisition is only going to prolong the pain for B&N shareholders. Since it seems like that’s off the table, your investing dollars are better suited somewhere else.

Fool contributor Evan Niu owns shares of Amazon.com, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Click here to see his holdings and a short bio. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Amazon.com. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (5) | Recommend This Article (2)

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  • Report this Comment On August 18, 2011, at 1:57 PM, kennyrosenyc wrote:

    That's rediculous. I work for Barnes and Noble and we only have like 700 stores. The remaining stores are seperate from the main company, they are college bookstores (which are not going anywhere).

  • Report this Comment On August 18, 2011, at 2:37 PM, megoogler wrote:

    Once again, disregard this "opinion" as Fool site has always been in love with Amazon and been hating Barnes & Noble. Last I heard, it's actually the physical stores that are profitable for B&N while Nook with all it's glory requires a l lot of investments and makes no money. For investor with a brain, stores should be considered a big asset for BKS especially after Borders is gone. Unfortunately, it's hard to find brains at Fools editorial writers.

  • Report this Comment On August 19, 2011, at 12:42 AM, needsmahbst wrote:

    I'm with megoogler. Saying nook can't stand up to Kindle is completely absurd. Nook as already stood up to Kindle and is holding firm. Consumer Reports even rated nook above Kindle and sales have been outstanding. Just another poorly researched article by someone who should spend more time reading books than plugging their favorite websites.

  • Report this Comment On August 20, 2011, at 3:43 PM, TMFBreakerRick wrote:

    Kenny, if you think college bookstores "are not going anywhere" I think you may want to consider the growing number of colleges and high schools and textbook publishers that are warming up to e-textbooks.

  • Report this Comment On August 26, 2011, at 12:54 PM, kennyrosenyc wrote:

    I agree with the ebook part of your statement TMF..... but you're ignoring the fact that MOST of the college bookstores are B&N owned and we allow the students to rent textbooks on the nook. Therefore we can keep those bookstores open for as long as we choose by adjusting prices to match the rent.

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