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Borders Results Hardly a Page Turner


Bookseller reports lackluster numbers.


There was no need to read between the lines: Borders's (BGP) first quarter results were kind of lousy. The book retailer released its numbers Tuesday after the bell. Per CNBC:

Ann Arbor-based Borders Group Inc. said it lost $31.7 million, or 53 cents per share, in the three months ending May 3rd, compared with a loss of $35.9 million, or 61 cents per share, for the comparable period of 2007. Meanwhile, the bookseller says its revenue fell 0.8 percent to $792.5 million from $798.7 million. Furthermore, same-store sales at domestic superstores fell 4.1 percent.

The article went on to point out that analysts had been expecting a loss of 47 cents a share on revenue of $801.1 million.

The company's inability to hit analyst's numbers stands out, because on Thursday May 22nd archrival Barnes & Noble (BKS) released its first quarter results. The well known brick-and-mortar retailer earned five cents per share from operations. Hardly inspiring to be sure, but the number was more or less in line with Wall Street estimates. The fact that Borders failed to clear that hurdle is a negative.

The company's comparable-store sales numbers were also a disappointment. Its Borders domestic superstores posted a 4.1% comparable-store decline - steeper than the 1.5% drop Barnes & Noble reported in its first quarter. The showing was made even more disappointing by the far-from-exacting measuring stick: A quick look back at Borders' archived financial data reveals that its domestic superstore comparables were down 1.9% in the first quarter of last year.

Borders proponents will point out that international same-store sales were up 3.1% for the period, but it's important to keep in mind that its international business compromises only 11.1% or so of total revenues.

On the plus side, Borders did relaunch its website and the company thinks it can be accretive in 2009. Management was also quick to point out that, in conjunction with its numbers, "cash flow from operations improved by $132.9 million for the quarter compared to a year ago, due in large part to improved inventory management."

But the big question remains as to whether or not its online activities can ultimately offset its lackluster brick-and-mortar performance and pressure from Barnes & Noble and, of course, Amazon (AMZN). Frankly, the jury's still out on that one.

Borders was off 47 cents, or almost 7%, in Tuesday's session. In after-hours trading shares were down a fraction.

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