Why Barnes & Noble, Inc.'s Shares Flopped Today

By Markets Fool.com

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

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What: Shares of Barnes & Noble had lost 9% of their value by 3 p.m. today after the company issued an underwhelming third-quarter earnings report.

So what: Barnes & Noble's third-quarter top line, despite decliningby 1.7% from the year-ago quarter to $1.96 billion, still managed to best the $1.9 billion consensusfrom Wall Street. However, Barnes & Noble's earnings of $0.93 per share -- an 8.1% improvement from last year's result -- were significantly weaker than Wall Street's expectations for $1.41 in EPS.

The company's segments posted wildly divergent results, which underscores the challenge Barnes & Noble faces with its planned spinoff of its college bookstores from the rest of the company. Its core retail sales fell 1% year over year, but Nook revenues collapsed by 50.6%. The college segment, on the other hand, posted a 7.2% uptick in sales, but its EBITDA was Barnes & Noble's big bottom-line loser with a 20.3% year-over-year decline (the only other decline was a marginal 0.5% drop in retail EBITDA). The company blamed this weakness on growth investments and the deployment of a digital education platform, as well as weaker rental margins.

Now what: Barnes & Noble has clawed its way back from what many analysts felt was the brink of collapse over the past two years. Although revenue remains lowerthan it was two years ago, Barnes & Noble has been free-cash-flow positive for more than a year, and its EPS is finally ticking back into the black as well. Does that make Barnes & Noble a great long-term investment? It's hard to make that argument based on the company's third-quarter results, which show falling sales in the two segments that will remain post-spinoff. If you were hoping to jump aboard Barnes & Noble's college spinoff and ride that to long-term gains, think again -- comparable-store sales declined by 1% after factoring in the differences in college schedules over the past two years.

The article Why Barnes & Noble, Inc.'s Shares Flopped Today originally appeared on Fool.com.

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Alex Planes has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Barnes & Noble. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.