Bloomsbury fires ahead in first half

<p>A vigorous publishing programme helped Bloomsbury to push up sales and profits during the first six months of the year. Sales rose 6.7% to &#163;31m in the six months to end-June, with operating profit up by 15.1% to &#163;2.8m.

The sales figure excludes the paperback of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which was published in July. It compares to the same period in 2003, which included a small amount of early receipts for Order of the Phoenix in hardback. Gross margin decreased as expected to 45.4%, down from 50.9% in 2003 when it was bouyed by the Harry Potter hardback.

Nigel Newton, Bloomsbury chairman and c.e.o., highlighted Joanna Trollope's Brother&amp;Sister and Jennifer Donnelly's Richard&amp;Judy pick A Gathering Light as among the top performers in the spring. The latest edition of society bible Who's Who from A&C Black saw its "biggest promotion ever," having been serialised for the first time.

Pretax profit rose by 37% to &#163;3.9m, including an exceptional gain of &#163;560,000. The gain related to the sale of A&C Black's Eaton Socon warehouse for a profit of &#163;1.09m, less reorganisation costs of &#163;450,000 to cover the move to Macmillan Distribution; and a &#163;80,000 loss on the sale of Blue Guides. Pretax profit before goodwill amortisation and the exceptional gain was up 4.5% to &#163;3.7m.

Bloomsbury's main board has been reduced in number from twelve to six members, including executives Nigel Newton, Colin Adams and Liz Calder; a new management board, Bloomsbury Book Publishing Company has been set up comprising its main board executives and Jill Coleman, Minna Fry, Sarah Odedina, Alexandra Pringle, Kathy Rooney and David Ward.</p>