Bloomsbury hopes Heston can cook up a storm after profits fall

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The Independent Online

Bloomsbury Group, which published the Harry Potter series, hopes that celebrity chefs and the Ashes can conjure up some magic in the second half, after profits plunged 66 per cent in the six months to June.

Profits at the group fell from £5.4m in the first half of last year to £1.8m in 2009, citing "difficult markets" and tough comparatives from 2008, when it released Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in paperback and The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns were selling well.

"The impact of the global recession on the general book market is leading to slightly reduced volumes across the industry," Bloomsbury said.

Its chief executive, Nigel Newton, remained upbeat, saying it had a strong line-up from some of its highest selling authors, including cookery books from Heston Blumenthal and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Bloomsbury will also be publishing work from Margaret Atwood, John Irving and William Boyd.

The group published its first Wisden Cricketers' Almanack since buying John Wisden in November. It will put Wisden out in e-book format for the first time this year. A new edition of Wisden on The Ashes is also being rushed to press for Christmas "following England's Ashes victory and the timing couldn't be better".

Mr Newton added that an increasing proportion of the group's revenue was generated from academic and specialist publishing which was "less susceptible to the vicissitudes of the consumer economy".