From: Reuters
Published April 1, 2008 05:22 AM

Publisher Bloomsbury sees life after Harry Potter

By Golnar Motevalli

LONDON (Reuters) - Bloomsbury Publishing Plc's 2007 profits more than doubled, boosted by the release of the final Harry Potter book, and it was confident a post-Hogwarts pipeline of new titles would keep readers buying.

"I am very confident about the post-Harry Potter period," Chief Executive Nigel Newton said in a telephone interview.

The last of the series, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," came out last year, but Newton was confident a new pipeline of titles from popular authors would drive sales into 2008.

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"We have a clutch of strong titles coming out this year, including ... a new Margaret Atwood novel, and the Deathly Hallows coming out in paperback," said Newton, who founded the company 21 years ago in his front room while on paternity leave.

Bloomsbury, which was also boosted by Khaled Hosseini's "The Kite Runner," said pretax profit was 17.9 million pounds ($35.5 million) in 2007, near the top of a 15.9-18.2 million range of analysts' forecasts provided by Reuters Estimates.

Revenue doubled to 150.2 million pounds.

Profit is forecast to fall to around 10 million pounds this year and revenue to 84 million, according to Reuters Estimates.

Newton said while there were no plans yet for any new books from Potter author J.K. Rowling, he predicted the paperback release of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" in July -- it sold over 2.5 million copies on the first day of its hardback release -- would boost sales in the run-up to the summer holiday period.

Shares in Bloomsbury were unchanged at 165 pence by 4:30 a.m. EDT, valuing the company at around 114 million pounds.

DIGITAL BOOKS

Bloomsbury, which is expanding into the digitized book market, announced a deal with Microsoft to publish its back catalogue of titles online, making a limited selection free for readers later in the year.

The financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

"We've entered into a partnership with Microsoft to digitize our entire list and make controlled amounts of it available on the Internet for free," Newton said.

U.S. revenues fell about 10 percent in 2007 on weak adult books sales, but Newton was confident that overall the company would be resistant to any economic slowdown in 2008.

"Books have historically been resilient during downturns ... data shows sales were up 7.2 percent in the 10 weeks to March 3, you can draw your own conclusions from that," Newton said.

"The combination of cost savings, good current trading and acquisitions provides scope to raise forecasts as we progress through the year," analysts at Numis Securities said in a note, retaining their "add" rating on the stock.

Newton said Bloomsbury was always interested in opportunities to acquire specialist publishers in the United States and the UK, but did not name any target companies.

(Editing by Mike Elliot, Paul Bolding)

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