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Microsoft plugging $300 million into Nook

Microsoft Corp will invest $300 million in Barnes & Noble Inc's digital and college businesses in a deal that values the businesses at $1.7 billion.
/ Source: msnbc.com news services

Microsoft Corp will invest $300 million in Barnes & Noble Inc's digital and college businesses, valuing them at $1.7 billion.

Microsoft will get a 17.6 percent stake in the new unit, while Barnes & Noble will own about 82.4 percent, the companies said in a statement on Monday.

The business, to be named Newco, will have an ongoing relationship with Barnes & Noble's retail stores.

Barnes & Noble, the No. 1 U.S. bookstore chain, said in January that it might spin off its digital business, which includes its Nook e-reader. The companies will introduce an application for the Nook on Windows 8, the upcoming version of Microsoft's operating system.

(Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBCUniversal.)

Barnes & Noble is investing heavily to develop its popular Nook devices and the e-books sales they generate as readers move away from traditional books.

Barnes & Noble and Microsoft have settled their patent litigation, the companies said.

The deal gives Barnes & Noble ammunition to fend off shareholders who have agitated for a sale of the Nook business or the whole company. For Microsoft, it represents a move into the e-book business, which has been targeted by Amazon.com, Apple Inc. and Google Inc.

The companies said that the subsidiary will have an ongoing relationship with Barnes & Noble's retail stores, but what that relationship will be is unclear.

Barnes & Noble, based in New York, currently runs 691 bookstores in 50 states. A representative for the company could not be immediately reached for comment.

The possibility of a separation of Barnes & Noble's digital and college businesses has been brewing recently. In March private investment firm G Asset Management, a Barnes & Noble shareholder, offered $460 million for a 51 percent stake in the company's college bookstore unit, Banes & Noble College Booksellers LLC.

Under that plan, the college bookstore unit was proposed to begin as a private business but become public within a "reasonable" amount of time. G Asset's offer was contingent upon Barnes & Noble keeping current management in place and separating its Nook e-business from the rest of the company. At the time the offer was made, Barnes & Noble declined to comment.

In 2009, Barnes & Noble Inc. bought the college bookstore unit from Chairman Leonard Riggio in a deal worth $596 million. The deal ended up costing Barnes & Noble $460 million after accounting for the unit's cash on hand at the closing date.

Barnes & Noble is looking to maximize the potential of its Nook e-book readers. The New York company has tried to adjust to a noticeable shift in book reading habits, with e-book readers becoming increasingly popular with consumers over traditional hardcover or paperback books. But Barnes & Noble is dealing with tough competition on that end from the likes of Amazon.com Inc.'s Kindle and others.