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Harry Potter publisher Bloomsbury profits up 265% amid 'reading surge'

Bloomsbury recorded its best ever sales and profits in the six months to the end of August, with the publishing house crediting a 'reading surge' for a remarkable half year.

The Harry Potter publisher saw 29 per cent revenue growth on the same time last year to £100.7million as pre-tax profits swelled by 265 per cent to £11.1million.

Bloomsbury told investors it had successfully mitigated well-publicised supply chain issues by boosting stock levels, printing earlier – 'well in advance' of the Christmas and academic new year peaks – and emphasising 'agility about where we print'.

A 'reading surge' has driven Bloomsbury to its best ever sales and profits growth

It added that consumers 'ordering earlier than in previous years' also bolstered first-half revenues.

There was strong performance across the business, with consumer revenue up 29 per cent to £62.9million and non-consumer revenue growth of 27 per cent to £37.7million.

Organic revenue growth was at 23 per cent for the half, and the completion of two acquisitions contributed revenue of £4.4million.

It drove earnings per share 263 per cent higher to 10.41p, allowing Bloomsbury to boost its interim dividend 5 per cent to 1.34p per share.

For the year ending 28 February 2022, revenue is expected to reach £193.4million and profit before taxation is forecast to rise to £19.3million. 

It follows record annual sales reporting in June after readers 'rediscovered books' during the pandemic, with strong demand for fantasy, cookery and 'social inclusion' titles lifting revenues to £185.1million in the year to 28 February. 

Bloomsbury Publishing shares were up 6.5 per cent in early trading to 375p, bringing year-to-date performance to 30.1 per cent.

Bloomsbury shares are up 30.1% year-to-date

In the wake of the results, analysts at Peel Hunt praised the firm: '[H1] saw retailers drag forward demand, resulting in a very strong performance.

'This and active management (a £10million rise in investment in inventory) is for the moment protecting the company from the worst impacts of the supply chain pressures.

'Confidence in the full-year numbers is pleasing. Yet again Bloomsbury's diversity and management style is protecting investors. A growth company to own in difficult times and after.'

Bloomsbury chief executive Nigel Newton said: 'These results demonstrate the strength and resilience of our strategy of publishing for both the consumer and academic markets, and our growth of digital revenues.

'Bestsellers during the period included Tom Kerridge's Outdoor Cooking, Piranesi by Susanna Clarke, A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas, The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon and The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.

The Harry Potter publisher said it had mitigated supply chain issues

'Since the period end Bloomsbury authors have won two of the most important prizes in the literary world, The Nobel Prize for Literature and The Women's Prize, which were won by Abdulrazak Gurnah and Susanna Clarke respectively. We congratulate them both.'

Newton added that Bloomsbury's 'strong financial position' opens the door for potential further acquisitions and investment.

He said: 'Whilst the Board remains mindful of the external environment, including impediments in the supply chain and the possibility of higher returns of the increased stock ordered early, the strength of the first half performance means that we are confident in achieving market expectations for the year ending 28 February 2022.'