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Barnes & Noble gets conditional acquisition offer

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Barnes & Noble Inc., the last-standing major chain in the national bookstore market, received a conditional proposal from a private investment management firm to take over 51% of the company for $22 a share.

The offer came through Thursday night, according to New York firm G Asset Management, which said its suggested price was 31% higher than Barnes & Noble’s most recent $16.78-a-share closing price.

But G Asset Management, which said Barnes & Noble is “substantially undervalued in its current form,” said its bid is conditional on due diligence, the ability to obtain financing and the outcome of negotiations.

In mid-afternoon trading in New York, Barnes & Noble stock was up 5.8%, or 97 cents, to $17.76 a share.

If Barnes & Noble doesn’t go for G Asset Management’s plan to take over a controlling share of the full company, the investment firm said it has another pitch: to acquire 51% of Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-reader segment.

The $5-a-share proposal would separate Nook from Barnes & Noble’s more profitable retail and college bookstores business, creating more value for shareholders, according to G Asset Management.

The investment firm had previously made a play for Barnes & Noble, offering $20 a share for 51% of the company on Nov. 15. Also last year, Barnes & Noble chairman Leonard S. Riggio abandoned plans to buy the company’s bookstores.

The company said last month that sales during the nine-week holiday period ended Dec. 28 slipped 6.6% to $1.1 billion from the same time a year earlier. Nook revenue slumped 60.5% year over year to $125 million.

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