The book retail chain’s shares are up 8.1% in mid-afternoon trading, making it one of the day’s biggest gainers in the media pack. Barron’s appears to be largely responsible for the move after it seized this weekend on reports that Microsoft might be willing to pay $1B for Barnes & Noble‘s NOOK tablet and e-reader platform. “It’s possible Microsoft may bid for Nook or the whole company, and there could also be interest from Liberty [Media]” which already owns 17% of Barnes & Noble, Barron’s says. Deals could send shares up as much as 50% the magazine estimates. The Microsoft rumor took off two weeks ago after Techcrunch cited “internal documents” that confirmed an offer. That sent shares to a 52-week high of $23.71. But enthusiasm fizzled last week when website Insider Monkey reported that a “highly placed source inside Microsoft” said an acquisition “is not happening in the foreseeable future.” That hasn’t put speculation about a big deal to rest. Founder Leonard Riggio has said that he might make an offer for the retail stores, although he hasn’t made it yet. Meanwhile Techcrunch yesterday cited “a source close to the matter” who says that Barnes & Noble is preparing to add a web browser, email, and apps to the Nook Simple Touch e-readers — potentially a big boost in functionality for a $79 device. The company recently …
It’s natural to wonder whether Liberty Media Chairman John Malone’s new acquisition of 27.3% of Charter Communications is merely Step One in a plan to make him a U.S. cable titan — the role he played until 1999 when he sold Tele-Communications Inc to AT&T. And while Liberty CEO Greg Maffei doesn’t predict that, he also didn’t rule it out today in a quarterly earnings call with analysts. He says that cable “could be in for a round of consolidation” at a time when it’s so inexpensive to borrow money and large companies covet opportunities to cut costs — for example by negotiating lower prices from programmers. He cryptically adds that even though Charter can do just fine as a stand-alone entity, “we’ll see” whether it ends up being “a consolidator or condolidatee.” Liberty’s stock purchase agreement gives it the right over time to raise its stake to 40%. Will it do so? “We’ll see what time holds,” Maffei says.
The book retail chain has a bleak story for Wall Street this morning. It reported a net loss of $6.1M for the three months that ended in January, down from a $52M profit a year ago, on revenues of $2.2B, -8.8%. Revenues missed analyst expectations for $2.4B. And with a dividend on preferred shares thrown in, the company generated a net loss of 18 cents a share — a contrast to the 54 cent profit analysts anticipated. The NOOK results continued to disappoint. It generated $316M in sales in the quarter, down 25.9% from a year ago, with a cash flow (EBITDA) loss of $190.4M, worse than last year’s $82.8M loss. The results include $21M for returns, and $15M in promotional allowances. As a result, Barnes & Noble took a $59M writedown on its NOOK inventory. It says that it is “calibrating its business model and has implemented a cost reduction program that the company projects will significantly reduce NOOK’s expenses.” CEO William Lynch says that the company remains committed to the tablet and e-reader business. In the main retail bookstore business, sales decreased 10.3% to $1.5B although EBITDA increased 7.3% to $212M. Not including NOOK sales, revenues at stores open at least a year were down 2.2%. This week B&N founder Leonard Riggio said he may offer to buy the stores.
NBC Universal and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment will supply standard definition and HD movies and TV shows to the NOOK Video download and rental service — just as Barnes & Noble prepares this week to ship its NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ tablets and offer them in its stores. The bookstore retailer’s release skimps on details about the agreements, including how much content the studios will provide, how much titles might cost, and what other devices might be able to handle Nook Video streams and downloads. But it says that titles include Snow White And The Huntsman, Battleship, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, Ice Age: Continental Drift, and Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Dog Days. Along with its previous deals with HBO, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, STARZ, Viacom, Warner Bros, and Disney, Barnes & Noble says it will offer “thousands of movies and TV shows for all ages and interests.” The new agreements, and tablets, also are designed to make it easy for NOOK owners to stream videos from their UltraViolet accounts.
Shares rose 8.3% to $14.96 this afternoon after CEO William Lynch vigorously argued at a Liberty Media investors’ meeting that stock buyers aren’t giving the book retail chain its due. With a market price of about $884M, the company that generated $7.2B in revenues last year “is undervalued,” he says. There’s a “strong, profitable and vibrant business” in its traditional bookstores, especially as rivals including Borders have closed. Lynch also urged investors to take a closer look at its new Nookmedia LLC partnership with Microsoft. The operation was valued at $1.7B this year when the computer giant invested $300M for a 17.6% stake in an operation that includes B&N’s Nook e-readers and tablets, e-Books, and college-targeted software. B&N’s stock price suggests that “investors are getting Nookmedia for free,” Lynch says. That overlooks the opportunities for the company as it builds its eBook sales, digital subscriptions, and eLearning — which he says has “big plans and announcements coming.” Lynch also talked up the new Nook HD and Nook HD+ tablets, which have won encouraging reviews ahead of the October 25 ship date. Nookmedia is “a big and growing company in an exploding space,” Lynch says. Liberty owns 17% of B&N.
That’s hard to say: Even Barnes & Noble can’t articulate why consumers might favor its planned digital video purchase and rental service over its more established rivals. There’s no word on how much movies and TV shows will cost. It’ll be “incredibly competitive,” says B&N General Manager of Emerging Digital Content Jonathan Shar. We don’t know how many movies and TV shows B&N will offer, or how recent most titles will be. We don’t even know whether it will work with all flavors of Apple and Android powered devices. “As one of the world’s largest retailers of physical video discs and digital copyrighted content, our new NOOK Video service will give our customers another way to be entertained with a vast and growing digital video collection, as part of our expansive NOOK Store,” CEO William Lynch says.
The tablet wars are intensifying as the holiday shopping season approaches: Amazon kicked things up today by announcing that Kindle Fire customers will only have to fill out one form to register for multiple media services including Netflix, Rhapsody, Pandora, Facebook, and The Weather Channel — and games from companies such as Zynga, EA, Gameloft, PopCap, and Rovio. What’s more, people who go through Amazon to buy the apps for their tablet will also be able to access them on other Android devices including mobile phones. The company will start to ship Kindle Fire tablets on November 15. The announcement follows Barnes & Noble’s announcement on Monday that it’s new Nook Tablet will include apps for Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Pandora.
Barnes & Noble today unveiled its new Nook Tablet, which comes preloaded with apps from Netflix, Hulu Plus and Pandora. The boost in entertainment options compared with previous versions signals the company’s intention to compete in the space against the likes of Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Apple’s iPad. And it is throwing down the gauntlet just in time for the holiday buying season: Nook Tablet is set to begin selling around November 17 for $249. Billed as an update to its e-reader Nook Color, the new incarnation has a 7-inch screen, Web browsing and email in addition to “access to the world’s largest digital bookstore via Wi-Fi.” It plans to offer Flixster and UltraViolet soon. The device has 16 gigabytes of storage and a battery life that will enable 11.5 hours of reading time or nine hours of watching videos in a single charge. Barnes & Noble also said today that it is lowering the price of its Nook Simple Touch (to $99) and Nook Color ($199).