HMV Media repeats determination not to sell Waterstone's

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The Independent Online

HMV Media said yesterday it has no plans to sell its Waterstone's bookselling operation, despite reports linking Tim Waterstone with a buyout of the business which bears his name.

HMV Media said yesterday it has no plans to sell its Waterstone's bookselling operation, despite reports linking Tim Waterstone with a buyout of the business which bears his name.

Mr Waterstone's role as non-executive chairman of HMV Media will now be reviewed. It is thought the company feels his position on the board has become untenable after repeated attempts to buy back the business in the past six months.

HMV Media said yesterday that neither Mr Waterstone or his backers, Prudential Portfolio Managers (PPM), had made an approach to the board or to the company's advisers.

The company said it stood by a statement in May by its chief executive Alan Giles. At that time Mr Giles said he had ended negotiations with all bidders for Waterstone's. "We are not going to sell the business," he said. "We still feel the fundamentals of the book business are strong."

The company also dismissed suggestions that it had appointed advisers to handle the sale of Waterstone's. Merrill Lynch and UBS Warburg have acted for HMV Media since it was formed in 1998, the company said

PPM and Mr Waterstone are thought to value the chain at about £250m, which would not tempt HMV to sell even though the group has £500m of debt. Mr Waterstone was not available to comment on his plans yesterday.

Waterstone's position as part of HMV Media has been a subject of much speculation since March when the company said it was "reviewing a number of strategic options for the chain".

Borders, owner of the Books etc chain, and Bertelsmann of Germany were linked with bids in addition to Mr Waterstone.

Waterstone's has struggled in the face of competition from online rivals such as Amazon.com. The internet has also hit sales of higher margin specialist publications. This has left Waterstone's increasingly exposed to mass-market bestsellers, which are usually heavily discounted.

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