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'Harry Potter' continues to make magic

Harry Potter continued to make money for Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, helping the British publisher to report a 15 percent rise in annual net profit Tuesday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Boy wizard Harry Potter continued to be the primary money-maker for Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, helping the British publisher to report a 15 percent rise in annual net profit Tuesday.

The sixth Harry Potter installment — “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” — broke all sales records for the publisher when it hit the shelves in July, underpinning net profits for 2005 of 14.65 million pounds ($25.57 million).

Total sales lifted 29 percent to 109.12 million pounds ($190.44 million).

With just one book left in the series by author J.K. Rowling, Bloomsbury is already planning ways to extend the profits from the popular children’s novels.

The date for the seventh and final book has not yet been confirmed, but the publisher intends to print a paperback edition 12 months later. It also plans to launch a box-set edition of all the volumes and continue to launch editions to coincide with the film releases, the fifth of which is scheduled for July 2007.

Its shares fell 5.6 percent to close at 342.75 pence ($6.02). Analysts cited profit taking following an earlier rise in anticipation of the earnings release.

Chairman Nigel Newtown said a number of best sellers on both sides of the Atlantic showed the company was making progress in plans to broaden its business geographically.

“Our position as an international publisher is now firmly established, and we can expect to see further benefits from this and the new areas of publishing that we are entering in the current year and beyond,” Newtown said.

Bloomsbury unveiled its first 24 titles for electronic download Tuesday, including current bestsellers “Moondust” by Andrew Smith and “Empress Orchid” by Anchee Min. Books will be sold at paperback prices.

The company said it believes that development of the right technology could lead to up to 50 percent of fiction sales coming from downloads within 10 years.

“Whilst sales are expected to be small initially with the e-book reading devices of the future still in development, we wish to establish our position now in a market that could become very important in the future,” it said.

Bloomsbury also said it plans to expand further into producing books about music, film, TV and sport, with books about actress Nicole Kidman, singer Bruce Springsteen and teenage Olympic boxer Amir Khan expected.

More immediately, it plans to release the paperback edition of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” in June to coincide with a celebration of children’s literature at Buckingham Palace.

It also said in September it will publish a series of speeches by Treasury Chief Gordon Brown, who is widely expected to be Britain’s next prime minister.