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Sainsbury's pays £1 entrance, heads into ebook club

Slurps HMV's 64% stake in Anobii for peanuts

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British grocery chain Sainsbury's has entered the ebook market by snapping up HMV's stake in Anobii for a nominal £1.

The retailing group said that slurping HMV Group's share and investing in the business would mean it ends up with a 64 per cent stake in Anobii, which is styled as a social network for book readers as well as an etailer.

The site, whose other investors are publishers Penguin, Random House and HarperCollins, currently has 600,000 users and around 60,000 ebooks in its library.

Sainsbury's said that snapping up the stake was a further step in its "drive into the growing online and digital entertainment market". The group launched Sainsbury's Entertainment in late 2010, bought online entertainment firm Global Media Vault late last year and this year launched its music download service.

"This acquisition is a valuable addition to our digital portfolio and shows our commitment to becoming a key player in the digital entertainment market," Mark Bennett, head of digital entertainment at Sainsbury's, said in a canned statement. "It further demonstrates how we are constantly looking to innovate and seize opportunities that will support the future growth of our business."

Sainsbury's bought the holding in Anobii for just £1 as HMV Group tries to go back to its roots as a retail business. HMV sold the Hammersmith Apollo at the end of last month for £32m as part of its restructuring to focus on its core business of selling music and films in bricks-and-mortar stores. The group reckons it can turn itself around enough to return to profit next year, despite big losses in the last financial year. ®

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