Harry Potter illustrated edition to boost Bloomsbury after weaker first half

An illustrated Harry Potter book and chef Tom Kerridge’s upcoming new healthy lifestyle offering are among titles set to help keep publisher Bloomsbury on track after a weak start to 2019.

The group saw half-year pre-tax profits fall by nearly a fifth – down 19% to £1.3 million in the six months to August 31.

Earnings in the consumer division were the hardest hit, plunging 81% on an underlying basis to £600,000 as it said releases would be even more weighted towards the second half than normal.

Shares fell 4% after the interim results.

But Bloomsbury is looking to a “very strong” autumn and winter schedule, with 10 titles on the list that it claims are recent, current or potential best-sellers.

These include an illustrated edition of Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire by JK Rowling and Jim Kay, published this month, as well as Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge’s new title in December, called Lose Weight And Get Fit.

Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge
Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge (Steve Parsons/PA)

Nigel Newton, chief executive of Bloomsbury, insisted it was an “encouraging” first half and the group confirmed its full-year guidance.

He said: “The consumer division results are more heavily weighted to the second half this year, with our biggest titles, including the illustrated Harry Potter And The Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling and Jim Kay, published in October ahead of the peak Christmas period.”

He also cheered a strong performance in the academic and professional division, which helped offset the consumer weakness, with underlying profits surging to £1.8 million from just £100,000 a year earlier on sales up 9%.

Overall non-consumer sales lifted 6% to £29.9 million.

Bloomsbury said sales of the Harry Potter series remain strong as the popularity of the boy wizard books show no sign of waning.

It said the paperback edition of Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone was the eighth bestselling children’s book of the year to date, according to UK Nielsen Bookscan – 22 years after it was first published.

But Harry Potter sales fell 16% on a year earlier, when demand was boosted amid the 20th anniversary celebration year.

Bloomsbury also said its digital resources arm moved into profit for the first time after revenues jumped 73% to £3.8 million.

The group added it was beefing up its takeover resources as it looks to take advantage of a “wide number of opportunities available”.

To support this, it has given content services managing director, Vafa Payman, a joint role as managing director of Bloomsbury China and head of acquisitions and corporate development

Bloomsbury has completed 14 acquisitions already since 2008.

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