Saturday, May 14, 2011

Barnes & Noble Bankruptcy Index: Borders may have a buyer while B&N put all their eggs in one e-nest

Sorry for the two day delay, but we're here with the weekly update on the B&N bankruptcy index. This week the stock continues to go up, probably still because of B&N's plans to introduce a new e-reader later on this month.

Still no word about the future of B&N's brick and mortar stores as B&N seems to be putting everything it got on the Nook and e-book sales, a risky bet that might be too risky for a brick and mortar company
. Bottom line: This week our B&N bankruptcy index stays in the 50-59 zone: Bankruptcy is a clear and present danger.

ust a short reminder - As Borders filed for bankruptcy couple of months ago, we started looking at Barnes & Noble, the nation's largest book chain to see if they will follow Borders and also go into bankruptcy and if so, when exactly.

To do it more analytically we launched few weeks ago a new B&N Bankruptcy Index, which is based on 10 parameters, which receive a grade between 1-10 (1 - worst grade, 10 - best grade). Hence we receive a 0-100 point index scale, which we divide into several ranges as follows:

90-100: B&N is in an excellent shape. Couldn't be better!

80-89: B&N is doing great. Bankruptcy is no longer a real threat.

70-79: B&N could do better and has to be cautious of bankruptcy.

60-69: B&N doesn't look too good and bankruptcy is becoming a more realistic threat.

50-59: Bankruptcy is a clear and present danger.

49 and less: Red alert! Bankruptcy is just around the corner and is likely to happen within a short time frame.

We will check the
B&N Bankruptcy Index every Thursday, updating each one of the parameters included in the index and will analyze the trend. You can follow the weekly changes in the index from the day it was launched on the Barnes and Noble Bankruptcy Index page on our website.
So here's our update for this week (in brackets is last week's grade):

1. Confidence of the stock market in B&N
This parameter will look at the performan
ce of the B&N stock (symbol: BKS) in the last week. The performance of B&N's stock is an indication of the confidence the market has in the ability of B&N to maintain a viable business.

So let's look at last week's figures (for consistency we look at results from Wed. 5/4 to Wed. 5/11):

5/4: $12.01
5/11: $13.46
Change: +12.1%

As you can see, B&N's stock went up in 12.1%
. Just for comparison, Amazon went up 2.2% last week and the S&P500 Index lost 0.4%.

I believe the stock is going up this week because of the same reason it went up last week - the excitement from the news on B&N's upcoming announcement (on May 24) on the launch of a new electronic book reader.

StreetAuthority thinks it's also all about the Nook:

Back in March, I suggested "the odds are increasing for a convincing turnaround." My logic rested on two pillars: First, a massive shrinkage in the store base of rival Border's would help drop-in traffic in those neighborhoods affected. Second, the company's Nook electronic reading device was starting to emerge as a real contender among the small group of e-readers. As it turns out, it's the Nook that explains why shares of Barnes & Noble have taken off like a rocket, rising 50% in less than a month. (Seeking Alpha)

So it looks like the stock jumped only because of the news on the upcoming e-reader, but since this trend is already going on for two weeks and gaining some sort of momentum, this wee's grade is going up in half a point
: 5 (4.5)

2. What analysts say on B&N

Katie Spence still doesn't believe in B&N:

I'm not giving up my books just yet. There is something about the smell and texture of an actual book that simply can't be replicated by e-books. That said, the future of the brick-and-mortar Barnes & Noble looks bleak. With companies such as Amazon dominating in sales, both in e-books and paperback, the time of bookselling superstores is gone. (The Motley Fool)

Spence sees that B&N is putting all her money and efforts into the Nook and ebook sales and she's wondering "are the Nook and e-book sales enough to keep Barnes & Noble afloat?" That's a good question - B&N is taking a very risky gamble here, leaving the stores, which are still its core business, out of the picture.

We don't see a significant change in the market sentiment and therefore our grade stays the same: 5.5 (5.5)

3. New strategy to regain sales in the brick and mortar stores
Just like Borders, B&N still doesn't have yet a clear and comprehensive strategy that will transform their brick and mortar stores from a liability back to an asset.

Still, there's nothing here. Not even a sign of a new strategy. This week's grade stays the same: 3.5 (3.5)

4. What B&N is saying about itself
We didn't find any quotes this week. Our grade for this parameter stays the same: 6 (6)

5. Steps B&N is taking
One interesting step we learned about from the WSJ was B&N's offer to Borders to buy 10 stores, along with the company's website and customer lists. Borders refused to the offer according to the article. This week's grade stays the same: 6 (6)

6. Competitors
This parameter will mainly look in
to Borders and how its problems affect B&N. WSJ reported earlier that "Borders Group Inc. is in discussions with a potential bidder for more than 225 stores that would keep the bookstore chain operating as a going concern, said people familiar with the matter. " Still it's not clear if Borders can find a buyer to the whole business, as according to Bloomberg "No Bidder Said to Be Found to Buy All of Borders." We'll have to wait though and see if it such a deal will actually happen or not and what it will include before we change the grade. Therefore this week's grade stays the same: 5 (5)

7. Financial strength

Katie Spence mentions in a comment she made to her article that "if you look at B&N's long term debt you will notice that it is currently at $260.4 million where as previously it was at 0. Additionally, its total current liabilities exceeds it total current assets and that is with a change in its annual reporting date (usually a bad sign for any company). All in all, the signs are looking bad for the brick-and-mortar company."

This is not a good news from a financial strength perspective and therefore our grade goes does by half a point: 6.5 (7)

8. Strength of the digital business

Nothing much happened on this front. This week's grade stays the same: 8 (8)

9. Sense of urgency
It looks like B&N still think they have time and are not worried at all, or at least not worried enough to begin doing something with their brick and mortar stores (again, we don't believe more toys in the stores and extra room for the Nook is a winning strategy). If we can learn something from the Borders' case, it's how fast things go bad when your reach a certain tipping point of financial distress or distrust of your stakeholders (consumers or publishers for example). This week's grade stays the same: 5.5 (5.5)

10. General feeling
This parameter will be an indication of our impression of all the materials read and analyzed for this index. Our feeling that things are still not looking too good for B&N hasn't changed this week and actually we feel that somehow the company is a bit lost when it comes to find how to generate more sales in its brick and mortar stores. This week's grade for this parameter stays the same
: 5 (5)

This week's Barnes & Noble Bankruptcy Index: 56 points (56)

As you can see, this week's index is set at 56 points, which means B&N is getting deeper into the 50-59 zone: Bankruptcy is a clear and present danger. It's still not the red zone but it means that bankruptcy is getting closer and is becoming a real threat to B&N. See you next Thursday.

To view the weekly changes in the index visit Barnes and Noble Bankruptcy Index on our website.

You can find more resources on the future of bookstores on our website at

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: Working to green the book industry!

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