Bookseller

Barnes & Noble

(BKS) - Get Report

on Thursday said its first-quarter loss narrowed by 3 cents.

The company said its first-quarter loss totaled $4.14 million, or 6 cents a share, compared with $5.94 million, or 9 cents a share in the year ago period. First-quarter 1999 earnings take into account changes in the accounting method. Excluding a loss from its

Barnes&Noble.com

(BNBN)

unit, the company said it broke even on a pro forma basis, exceeding analysts' expectations.

Wall Street had expected the New York-based bookseller to post a pro forma loss of 2 cents a share, according to a survey conducted by

First Call/Thomson Financial

.

The company's shares were up 7/16, or 2%, at 18 1/4 in midday trading. (Barnes & Noble closed up 3/16, or 1%, at 18.)

Donald Trott, an analyst at

Brown Brothers Harriman

, said he was encouraged by the numbers, noting that the core business had shown significant improvement in a quarter that some analysts had predicted would be very difficult.

"There are a lot of moving parts to this thing. You have four different income lines -- Internet, bookstores Babbage's Etc. and investments," said Trott. "But the core business did better than expected."

Trott, who rates Barnes & Noble a neutral, pointed to the 78% increase to 16 cents a share in net income from bookstore sales, up from 9 cents in the year ago period. The increase came despite some expectations that Internet sales would detract from sales at the traditional brick-and-mortar outlets.

"Our results -- significant increases in retail and online sales -- show that if we pay a visit to our customers at home through Barnes&Noble.com, they will return the favor at our stores," Leonard Riggio, Barnes & Noble's chairman, said in a statement.

Revenue for the quarter rose 24% to $894.3 million from $718.3 million a year ago. Gross profit increased 25% to $240.1 million.

Bookstore sales were up 7.8% to $774.3 million from $718.3 million in the year ago period. Super store sales increased 11.5% to $692.5 million, representing 90% of total bookstore sales.

Barnes & Noble's Internet losses remained unchanged from a year ago at 10 cents a share, in line with analysts' expectations, Trott said.

Brown Brothers does not do any underwriting.

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