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Penguin pain from Fifty Shades of Grey

Record sales of Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James have inflicted spectacular pain at rival book publisher Penguin.

At least, that was one of the excuses Penguin used yesterday to explain a near-50 per cent slump in half-year profits.

Shares in parent company Pearson, which also owns the Financial Times and has a major education business, tumbled 4.5 per cent as trading conditions have been "tougher than expected".

Chief executive Dame Marjorie Scardino blamed the "exceptional performance" of both Fifty Shades and another rival's bestseller, The Hunger Games – which was turned into a Hollywood film – for Penguin's woes.

Fifty Shades, with 30 million sales, has broken the paperback record set by the Harry Potter series and "distorted" the market, she said.

But Ms Scardino also conceded that Penguin had fewer titles and a "less favourable product mix, particularly in North America" in the first six months of this year.

Only 132 Penguin books made it into the US bestseller chart against 157 in 2011. The business did better over here, with 49 bestsellers, just like last year.

She added that the collapse of the US chain Borders meant close to one million square feet of retail space to sell physical books had been lost.

Penguin's operating profits crashed to £22m against £42m, with sales down 4 per cent to £441m.