Barnes & Noble is breaking itself apart, by spinning off its fast-growing digital unit from its slow-growth bookstore business. And it’s doing so with help from Microsoft.
Redmond will put $300 million into the new business at a $1.7 billion valuation, and will get 17.6 percent of the new company. That will leave Barnes & Noble with a stake in the new unit worth about $1.4 billion.
That’s about $600 million more than the value the market placed on all of Barnes & Noble until this morning. Not surprisingly, Barnes & Noble investors love this idea, and are bidding up the stock a staggering 80 percent this morning.
(Update: For now, this isn’t a formal spinoff, and the new unit will remain a Barnes & Noble subsidiary. It’s reasonable to assume that Barnes & Noble and Microsoft will attempt to formally cleave the digital unit into a standalone company down the road, though the release announcing the deal includes plenty of hedging language in case that doesn’t happen: “The company intends to explore all alternatives for how a strategic separation of Newco may occur. There can be no assurance that the review will result in a strategic separation or the creation of a stand-alone public company, and there is no set timetable for this review.”)
A few details:
The new company will also include Barnes & Noble’s college book-selling unit.
Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 OS will now include a Nook app.
The deal includes a settlement to a patent battle between the two companies. It’s worth noting that the Nook runs on a “forked” version of Google’s Android mobile operating system.