Demand for the latest Harry Potter book, the sixth instalment in the boy wizard series, has been "substantially higher" than Bloomsbury had anticipated, prompting the publishing house to raise its profit target for 2005.
Shares in the group set a new record after it predicted profits before tax and goodwill would be at least £20m, 10 per cent higher than it had guided analysts to expect. Its shares rose 19p to 325p.
Nigel Newton, the chairman, said the company had received "higher-than-expected advance sales" since it had announced the novel's release date in December. "We're sufficiently convinced [of the strength of demand] that we've pushed the forecasts up," he said. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince will be published at midnight on 16 July.
Despite the phenomenal success of JK Rowling's Harry Potter books, Bloomsbury has resisted the temptation to rely on the wizard's magic and has expanded its adult and reference publishing arms. It has also expanded into Germany and strengthened its presence in the US.
Mr Newton said progress in 2005 would come "across the board", predicting a novel from one of its new authors, Peter Prince, would be a big seller, as would a non-fiction title about "men and food" by William Leith. His comments came as Bloomsbury reported a 19 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to £16.2m. Excluding goodwill amortisation and an exceptional gain from the sale of a freehold warehouse, profits rose 7 per cent to £16.4m.
The group had three number one best-sellers in each of its three markets: with Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell in the US; The Two of Us, a book about John Thaw by his widow, Sheila Hancock, in the UK; and Schott's Original Miscellany in Germany. "This showed Bloomsbury has emerged as a fully fledged international publisher for the first time," Mr Newton said.
Bloomsbury is expanding the breadth of its children's publishing division, with a push into the pre-school market. It intends to add "critical mass" to its children's division by targeting strategic acquisitions.