NEW YORK - Strong sales at Barnes & Noble and Borders Group Inc. helped lift thirdquarter profits at the nation’s two largest booksellers above Wall Street expectations. Both offered optimistic holiday outlooks.
The nation’s leading book retailer, Barnes & Noble, said Thursday its net income more than doubled in the quarter on strong sales gains across the board. Its rival, No. 2 Borders Group, swung to a profit with help from an after-tax gain.
‘‘My sense is that the book business has picked up some momentum,’’ said Howard Tubin, an analyst at Cathay Financial LLC. ‘‘And the momentum is likely to continue through the holiday season.’’
Tubin added that releases like the latest Harry Potter tale, which hit bookstores in June, helped reverse a sluggish trend in book sales. ‘‘Consumers have rediscovered books somewhat, and maybe that has helped drive the business.’’
The New York-based Barnes & Noble earned $10.2 million, or 14 cents per share, for the three months that ended Nov. 1, compared with $3.8 million, or 5 cents per share, in the year-ago period. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call expected 9 cents per share.
The company also boosted its earning projections for the fourth quarter, which includes the important holiday period, and for the year, based on an improved sales outlook. The Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Borders Group reported thirdquarter earnings of $500,000, or 1 cent per share, for the three months ended Oct. 26. That was an improvement over last year’s loss of $1.8 million, or 2 cents per share. The company also announced it would begin paying quarterly dividends in what it called a sign of confidence.