Friday, March 21, 2008

Borders' Punished: Not a Pretty Picture

After yesterday's announcement of their 'refinancing' package from current 18% shareholder Pershing Capital, Borders shares fell over 28% yesterday. The company began the day with a market cap over $400mm - and at that level a poor reflection of the value of the company - and ended the day at a value of $297mm.

On a day when the company could have touted the upswing in 4th quarter results as proof their strategic plan was on track they decided instead to concoct a deal that on the surface appears to have been conceived over pizza the night before. Even the analysts who remain closely familiar with the company questioned the immediate need for the capital infusion. Matthew Fastler from Goldman Sachs noted in reviewing their balance sheet he saw no cause for concern. "What's the urgency," he asked.

A believer in conspiracy theories might conclude this stock price has been beaten down to cheapen an acquisition price. A offer at the closing price on Wednesday would give shareholders a 40% premium on Thursdays close.

Barnes & Noble, who's stock has been heavily purchased by insiders (primarily Len Riggio) was up 8% yesterday. Even Books A Million was up 4%. On their conference call yesterday, B&N were asked whether they would be interested in buying Borders and while they said they haven't been contacted they did say it would be something they would consider. Of course they would take a look, they're a competitor! I maintain B&N would not want to be saddled with the headaches and would rather take share the old fashioned way; that is, better store merch, better store location, better negotiation and better logistics. The likely scenarios are: 1. Purchase by Pershing, 2. Purchase by unknown PE, 3. Purchase by competitor or 4. Purchase by a Canadian. 5. Purchase by an Australian (wouldn't it be funny if they offered to buy everything).

I've always thought that a far better combination all around would be Borders and Books A Million. (Borders A Million?) Another interesting combination would be Indigo Books and Borders. Indigo is the combination of the two largest book retailers in Canada and there were rumours of some cross border combination with either Borders or B&N. These have died down in recent years but the Borders Indigo combination could be interesting. The owner of Indigo is married to one of the richest men in Canada and money to acquire the business (at $300mm come on!) wouldn't be a problem.

Heck, I'm going to go out and play the lotto and when I win I might take a shot.

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