Herb on TheStreet: *Special* Is Barnes & Noble About to Buy Ingram Books?
By Herb Greenberg Senior Columnist 11/4/98 3:07 PM ET
Here's one: What would you say if I told you that Barnes & Noble (BKS:NYSE) is actively involved in negotiations to buy privately held Ingram Books, the country's largest book distributor, which also happens to supply Amazon.com(AMZN:Nasdaq) with the majority of its books?
One normally reliable source who is familiar with the situation but not an insider says such a deal, priced at between $500 million to $700 million, is imminent. If it does occur, Amazon would wind up buying many of its books from, of all places, archrival Barnes & Noble.
In its 10-K, Amazon discloses that it also buys books from Baker & Taylor. But Ingram is the single-largest supplier, accounting for 58% and 59% of the company's inventory purchases in 1997 and 1996, respectively.
To avoid antitrust issues, according to this column's source, Barnes & Noble through Ingram would continue supplying books to Amazon.
Such a deal, which this source says has been in the works in some form for months, would be just the latest in the rapidly evolving and competitive world of online bookselling. For months, Barnes & Noble has been trying to close the gap between itself and Amazon with its own online book operation. Bertelsmann recently paid $200 million for a 50% stake in Barnesandnoble.com and, prior to that, was in talks to buy Amazon. In fact, this column's source says Amazon did bid for part of Ingram not long ago.
Ingram Books is part of Ingram Industries, a privately held company run by the Ingram family. Ingram Micro(IM:NYSE), the electronics distribution company, was part of the company until late 1996, when it was spun off to the public.
A spokeswoman for Barnes & Noble hasn't yet returned my two calls, though the company is expected to make a statement later today. Officials of Ingram Books couldn't be reached. And I'm still waiting to hear from the Amazon spokeswoman with a comment.
Herb Greenberg writes daily for TheStreet.com. In keeping with the editorial policy of TSC, he does not own or short individual stocks. He also does not invest in hedge funds or any other private investment partnership. He welcome your feedback at email@example.com. Greenberg writes a monthly column for Fortune magazine and provides daily commentary for CNBC � 1998 TheStreet.com, All Rights Reserved.
BKS announces 11/16, and will easily beat the street. Earnings will be accompanied by news of a major new investment in BKS. The appointment of Bulkeley (AOL UK) as CEO of the .com side is not a coincidence folks. Buy as much BKS as you can. It is highly unlikely you will ever see this stock at 30 again.