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Oppenheimer: Best Buy deal feasible, but unlikely


NEW YORK (AP) — An attempt by Best Buy's founder and one-time chairman to take the company private is unlikely to succeed, according to Oppenheimer & Co., which sees no change in the toxic retail environment that has eaten away at the company's profits.

"With price competition from online-only retailers and a dearth of new product introductions, we do not see an easy way to turn around waning store performance," said analyst Brian Nagel "Management has started to close stores, but these efforts alone will not be enough to drive better profitability."

After talks between Richard Schulze and Best Buy appeared to stall, shares jumped Monday after the company granted him permission to look at its books. Schulze is trying to convince private equity firms that it's a money making venture.

It is that part of the deal that is problematic, Nagel said in research published Wednesday.

The company has plenty of cash flow and a healthy balance sheet, which would support a leveraged buyout, Nagel said. But the issues that have plagued Best Buy for years have not gone away.

Private equity firms will "ultimately balk at a deteriorating business model that is increasingly falling victim to the inroads of new non-traditional consumer electronics competitors and a weak product cycle," Nagel wrote.

Already, rivals like Circuit City have been forced out of business as consumers increasingly migrate to online venues. Analysts have noted that many people look at products in stores like Best Buy, and then look for a better price online. On top of that, shoppers are no longer snapping up big-ticket items like TVs and computers at the fast clip that they used to, instead spending money on smaller gadgets like cell phones and computer tablets.

And profits have been evaporating. Earlier this month, Best Buy withdrew its full-year earnings guidance and posted a 90 percent decline in net income for the second quarter.

Best Buy's CEO Brian Dunn resigned in April during an internal investigation into a relationship with a 29-year-old employee. Schulze, who knew about the relationship but did not relay the information to the board, resigned as chairman a month later.

Shares of Best Buy Co. Inc. fell 6 cents to $17.81 in midday trading.


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