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WSJ: Barnes & Noble Chairman Mulls Bid For Bookstore Chain

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Barnes & Noble Inc.'s (BKS: Quote) founder and chairman, Leonard Riggio, has expressed an interest in buying out the company consumer-bookstore chain, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, citing people familiar with the matter. Riggio's reported move boosts speculation that the bookstore chain and Nook eReading software provider could be split into two.

Riggio, who holds about 30 percent of the company's stock and is its largest shareholder, has reportedly told of his interest to Barnes & Noble's board of directors without starting a formal process. He is said to have made a preliminary proposal, but might make a formal offer this week.

If Riggio proceeds with his plan, Barnes & Noble's 689 retail stores would reportedly be taken private and separated from the company's college-store chain as well as its Nook e-reader and tablet business. Riggio is said to be planing to spin out the unit that makes the Nook tablet.

According to the WSJ, the retail stores could be valued at three or four times earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization or Ebitda in a sale, or about $1 billion.

Barnes & Noble said in early 2012 that it will explore strategic alternatives for the Nook digital business. The company is looking to spinoff the Nook business into a separate company in order to unlock its value due to the increased significance of the Nook business platform. A special committee of the board, advised by Evercore Partners Inc. (EVR), has been working on the separation plan.

In late November 2012, Barnes & Noble reported a turnaround to profit in the second quarter as higher sales at the Nook segment, including digital content sales, helped offset lower sales at its retail segment. At that time, Barnes & Noble said that Nook unit sales doubled over the four-day Black Friday weekend across all channels, citing preliminary data.

Barnes & Noble is scheduled to report its financial results for the third quarter later this week. Analysts expect the company to report earnings of $0.54 per share for the quarter on revenues of $2.40 billion.

BKS closed Friday's trading at $13.51, up $0.32 or 2.43 percent on a volume of 1.24 million shares.

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by RTT Staff Writer

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