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NCR to Acquire Blockbuster Properties?

23 Feb, 2010 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Fallout from Wal-Mart’s acquisition of movie download service Vudu took a speculative turn Feb. 23 when Bill Nuti, CEO of NCR Corp., told Bloomberg News the kiosk manufacturer was willing to spend millions to acquire third-party digital and by-mail rental properties.

Since Duluth, Ga.-based NCR currently has a license to manufacture, roll out and operate Blockbuster Express DVD rental kiosks, Gil Lauria, analyst with Wedbush Morgan Securities in Los Angeles, said it wouldn’t be improbable for the company to spend upwards of $100 million acquiring Blockbuster’s by-mail and on-demand services, if the opportunity presented itself.

Indeed, Dallas-based Blockbuster, which reports fourth-quarter results Feb. 24, remains saddled with significant debt and limited resources required to implement an ambitious multi-channel distribution network involving stores, by-mail, digital (including mobile phones) and kiosks.

“There are a number of opportunities we have to expand into,” Nuti told Bloomberg. “We’re looking at some today, and we’ll continue to look at some over the longer term.”

Lauria said NCR and Blockbuster have become mutually beneficial to each other, with the former eyeing an expanded presence in the rental market, and Blockbuster coveting strong third-party support.

“NCR at some point may decide to buy any piece of Blockbuster, depending on what happens to the company financially,” Lauria said. “NCR is worried about its own business, and they are ready for any [third-party] scenario Blockbuster might entertain. If Blockbuster was to get in [further] trouble, NCR would be able to take some of those pieces.”

Blockbuster spokesperson Michelle Metzger said she couldn’t comment on NCR’s business strategies.

“We are pleased with the progress of our partnership with NCR in the Blockbuster Express kiosk program and look forward to continuing that relationship,” Metzger said.

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