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Barnes Noble 4Q profits decline 9 percent

By Anne D’innocenzio

Associated Press

NEW YORK — Barnes & Noble Inc., the nation’s largest bookseller, reported a 9 percent decline in fourth-quarter profits Thursday amid a challenging retail environment.

Barnes & Noble said that it earned $115.04 million, or $1.79 per share, in the three-month period ended Feb. 2, compared with $126.73 million, or $1.83 per share in the year-ago period. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial expected $1.71 per share.

The company got a non-operating boost worth 10 cents per share from property insurance and legal settlements that totaled $6.3 million.

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Barnes & Noble also announced that it would increase its quarterly cash dividend to 25 cents per share from 15 cents.

Shares jumped 5.9 percent, or $1.65, to $29.65 at the open of trade Thursday.

The company says that sales slipped to $1.85 billion in the period, from $1.88 billion in the year-ago period. Same-store sales fell 0.5 percent in the fourth quarter. The company expects that same-store sales in the first quarter will be "slightly negative."

The company expects earnings of 5 to 10 cents per share in the current quarter.

Also Thursday, rival Borders Group Inc. said it may put itself up for sale and has lined up $42.5 million in financing to help the chain continue operations. The nation’s second largest bookseller has lost market share to online retailers and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Its shares fell a penny to $7.09.

For the year, Barnes & Noble earnings slipped to $135.8 million, or $2.03 per share, compared to $150.53 million, or $2.17 per share, in the year-ago period. Sales reached $5.4 billion, from $5.26 billion in the previous year.

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