Barnes & Noble founder seeks to buy retail business

NEW YORK (AFP) - Shares of Barnes & Noble soared on Monday after the bookseller's founder and largest shareholder proposed buying the company's retail and online businesses, but not its digital Nook businesses.

Shares in the company were up 10 per cent at US$14.86 in early afternoon trading in New York.

Mr Leonard Riggio, the founder and chairman of the company, said in a regulatory filing that he "plans to propose to purchase all of the assets of the retail business of the Company." Mr Riggio currently holds 29.8 per cent of the shares in company.

Mr Riggio's purchase proposal, filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, includes Barnes & Noble stores and online website.

It excluded the company's Nook Media business, which includes Nook e-readers and digital college businesses.

Barnes & Noble said in a separate statement that it would appoint a committee of three independent directors to evaluate the proposal.

"There can be no assurance that the review of Mr Riggio's proposal for the consideration of any transaction will result in a sale of the retail business or in any other transaction," the bookseller said.

Barnes & Noble said in early 2012 that it was exploring splitting out the Nook business to "unlock the value" in a venture that had made a mark in digital content.

Barnes & Noble reported a net loss of US$38.7 million (S$47.9 million) for the first half of 2013, according to its most recent quarter.

The 2012 holiday shopping season was a disappointment, with the company reporting in January that revenues in its retail segment fell 10.9 per cent from the year-ago period.

Holiday sales for Nook products also came in below expectations, the company said.

Barnes & Noble's retail stores have seen increasing losses in recent years, pressured by online books and other online products. Former rival Borders went out of business in 2011 and liquidated 399 stores.