Barnes & Noble Plunges on Possible Nook Spinoff (Update 1)

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Barnes & Noble ( BKS) is considering spinning off its Nook business.

The book-selling giant said on Thursday that it is exploring strategic separation of the highly successful business.

"We see substantial value in what we've built with our Nook business in only two years, and we believe it's the right time to investigate our options to unlock that value," said CEO William Lynch. "In Nook, we've established one of the world's best retail platforms for the sale of digital copyright content. We have a large and growing installed base of millions of satisfied customers buying digital content from us, and we have a Nook business that's growing rapidly year-over-year and should be approximately $1.5 billion in comparable sales this fiscal year. Between continued projected growth in the U.S., and the opportunity for Nook internationally in the next 12 months, we expect the business to continue to scale rapidly for the foreseeable future."

Barnes & Noble said it is in discussion with strategic partners, including publishers, retailers and technology companies in international markets that may lead to expansion of the Nook business overseas.

The company said there is no guarantee that the current review will result in the separation of the Nook division and it won't comment further until a decision is made.

Barnes & Noble also cut its 2012 outlook, expecting EBITDA between $150 million and $180 million. The company previously predicted EBITDA in the range of $210 million to $250 million.

Shares of Barnes & Noble tumbled more than 22% in premarket trading Thursday on the news.

The Nook business and digital content has been one of the only bright spots for Barnes & Noble, which has been hurt by declining sales of physical books for several years. In fact, it is the Nook business that has been credited with saving the company from facing a fate similar to the now defunct Borders.

During the nine-week holiday period, sales of Nook devices surged 70% from last year. Sales of the Nook Tablet, which the company introduced just before the official start of the holiday season, exceeded expectations, while the Simple Touch lagged forecasts.

Digital content spiked 113% year-over-year. The company now foresees sales of digital content to hit $450 million in 2012.

- Reported by Jeanine Poggi in New York.

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