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Harry Potter publisher prints early to save Christmas

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: A store assistant holds copies of the book of the play of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child parts One and Two at a bookstore in London

By Federico Maccioni

(Reuters) - The publisher of Harry Potter books has been printing titles much earlier than usual this year to sidestep supply snags ahead of what it expects will be a "booming" Christmas.

Bloomsbury Publishing said on Wednesday it was taking a range of steps to manage supply challenges such as lorry driver shortages and bottlenecks at ports that have affected many British companies.

"We have taken steps (to manage supply) by trying to get our books to printers earlier so that we have more time in the schedule and still achieve the same publication date," Chief Executive Nigel Newton said in an interview.

"We are going to have a booming Christmas," he added, noting strong demand trends for both its consumer and academic book divisions. "I think universities are playing catch-up for time that was lost in the last 18 months and we are going to see a surge in academic sales as well."

The London-based company said in a statement it was printing "well in advance" of its usual schedule to handle the Christmas shopping rush and the start of the academic year in autumn.

Bloomsbury has also been printing more books in the UK if another market, like the United States, was behind, he said.

The publisher, best known for picking up J.K. Rowling's Potter series in 1997 after its rejection by a dozen others, reported a record half-year profit as reading remained popular through coronavirus lockdowns. Newton predicted those reading trends would continue into next year.

Bloomsbury also boosted its dividend payout to shareholders by 5% to 1.34 pence per share.

Bestsellers included cookbooks and fantasy novels, including Susanna Clarke's "Piranesi", while future revenue should get a boost from 2021 Nobel literature winner Abdulrazak Gurnah's latest, "Afterlives", Bloomsbury said.

The Tanzanian novelist's Nobel win earlier this month spurred a "huge increase" in sales of his work, Newton said.

Shares in Bloomsbury were up 4.8% at 369 pence on the London Stock Exchange by 12:40 GMT.

($1 = 0.7272 pounds)

(Reporting by Federico Maccioni, Muvija M and Sachin Ravikumar; editing by Rashmi Aich and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

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