J.P. Morgan Upgrades Barnes & Noble to ‘Neutral’
Portland, Ore. J.P. Morgan analysts, seeing opportunity for Barnes & Noble Inc. amid the tumult in bookselling, on Friday upgraded their rating on the company to “neutral.”
Barnes & Noble earlier this month said it cut 100 jobs at its corporate headquarters and said its holiday season same-store sales fell 7.7%, while total sales fell 5.2% as consumers cut back on discretionary spending.
But J.P. Morgan analysts said the company’s debt-free and cash-heavy position and emerging opportunities to capture marketshare give Barnes & Noble a glimmer of hope. They also characterized the holiday sales as “better than feared.”
The analysts said in their note that bookselling remains a fundamentally challenged industry as consumers limit discretionary spending and traditional booksellers cede market share to other channels, such as Amazon. But they upgraded Barnes & Noble from “underweight” to “neutral.”
J.P. Morgan wrote that the company’s clean balance sheet will help it weather softness in the market and capitalize on strategic investments if opportunities arise.
Walmart offers $9 smoking cessation kits
Walmart announced this week that as part of its Operation Main Street initiative, it will offer a smoking cessation prescription starter pack for $9. According to Walmart the $9 starter pack of bupropion ER 150mg is the lowest priced on the market and the generic equivalent of Zyban. The starter pack is available at Walmart, Neighborhood Market and Sam’s Club pharmacies in a 17-tablet, 10-day supply.
“Times are tight right now, and Walmart is committed to helping our customers maintain their healthy lifestyles in both good economic times and bad,” said Dr. John Agwunobi, Walmart SVP and president of health and wellness. “With our affordable smoking cessation offerings, we’re hopeful that smokers who are committed to quitting will be able to get the tools they need to stop smoking and still be able to afford everyday household items so they can live better.”
The health community applauded Walmart for its efforts in helping smokers find affordable ways to quit.
“The public health community has long recognized that the cost of either cigarettes or smoking cessation medications has served as a determining factor for smokers to continue smoking or finally to decide to quit,” said Cheryl Healton, Dr. P.H., president and CEO of the American Legacy Foundation. “This move by Walmart to provide science-based smoking cessation therapies that smokers can more easily afford is a huge step forward in helping millions of smokers finally quit for good. We applaud Walmart and hope other retailers will follow their example. It can only result in longer, healthier lives.”
Steinhafel named chairman of Target
MINNEAPOLIS Target president and CEO Gregg Steinhafel, will assume the additional role of chairman of the board, effective Feb. 1. Steinhafel succeeds Bob Ulrich, who will retire from the board, as previously announced, at the end of the 2008 fiscal year. The board also announced that Ulrich will be designated chairman emeritus in recognition of his many significant contributions.
Steinhafel joined Target in 1979 and served in a variety of merchandising positions until being named EVP of merchandising in 1994. He was promoted to president of Target in 1999 and became a member of the board of directors in 2007. Steinhafel succeeded Ulrich as CEO of Target in May 2008.