March 20, 2008 / 5:55 AM / 10 years ago

Borders to explore sale, suspends dividend

<p>A customer browses through books at a new Borders store in Kuala Lumpur April 19, 2005. Borders Group Inc on Wednesday reported a fourth-quarter profit and said it has launched a strategic review which will investigate alternatives including a possible sale of the company. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad BM/KS/DH</p>

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. book retailer Borders Group Inc BGP.N posted a fourth-quarter profit on Thursday but suspended its quarterly dividend and said it had launched a strategic review that will investigate selling the business.

The company said it had received financing commitment of $42.5 million from Pershing Square Capital Management and an offer to purchase certain of the company’s international businesses pursuant to a $125 million backstop purchase commitment.

Borders posted a net profit of $ 64.7 million, or $1.10 a share, for the quarter, compared with a loss of $73.6 million, or $1.25 per share, a year earlier when it took large charges associated with the closing of Waldenbooks stores.

Excluding non-operating charges and discontinued operations, the company earned $84.7 million, or $1.44 a share.

Analysts on average expected $1.42 per share, according to Reuters Estimates.

Sales rose to $1.3 billion, representing a 2.8 percent increase on a year ago after excluding the impact of the extra week in fiscal 2006, according to the company.

Borders Chief Executive George Jones said though the company was on track to reach its 2009 financial targets, it would be slowed by the worsening economic conditions.

“We will be slowed in our progress and expect that we’ll reach them later than originally anticipated,” said Jones in a statement.

“Still, we believe that our strategic plan remains the right path toward achieving these goals,” he said.

Borders, the No. 2 U.S. bookseller behind Barnes & Noble Inc (BKS.N), began a turnaround plan last year. It is closing underperforming Waldenbooks stores, weighing options for its international units, and refocusing on its core U.S. store operations.

The retailer is trying to fend off competition not only from Barnes & Noble, but also from online retailers, where consumers have been turning for cheaper books, CDs and DVDs.

Reporting by Yinka Adegoke, editing by Will Waterman

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