Shares in Bloomsbury Publishing have climbed more than 10% after the Harry Potter publisher reported strong book sales during the coronavirus lockdowns.
The UK-based company said sales were up 14% to £185.1m in the year to 28 February, while profit before tax was up 22% to $19.2m.
Chief executive Nigel Newton said: “The popularity of reading has been a ray of sunshine in an otherwise very dark year.”
The UK has been under various levels of lockdown since March last year in an effort to limit the spread of coronavirus.
At the height of the pandemic, people were ordered to stay home, with many turning to activities such as reading books to while away the lockdown days.
Bloomsbury said books on themes such as humanity, social inclusion, escapism, fantasy, cookery and baking were especially popular with readers.
Even the Harry Potter books – more than 20 years after the franchise began – saw a 7% increase in sales, as children and adults swapped the grim reality of the pandemic for tales of teenage wizardry.
Mr Newton told Reuters: “I think that it is the (reading) habit itself which may have become permanent as people have rediscovered the role of books in their lives.
“It is across the board, from the inspiration for recipes to the escapism, which great novels give, to books about exercise and meditation (which) have become relevant to people.
“As the pandemic recedes, we will never return to exactly the world we had before.”
Shares closed up 11.3% on news that the company’s final dividend would increase 10% and a special dividend was being proposed of 9.78p per share.
Mr Newton said: “The board greatly appreciate the support of our shareholders during such unprecedented circumstances last year.”
He added that Bloomsbury’s revenue is expected to be ahead and profit to be comfortably ahead of market expectations for the year ending 28 February 2022.
Thanking his team, he said: “Our ability to adapt to the rapidly changing conditions, together with the strength of our strategy supported by our strong financial position, has enabled Bloomsbury to emerge even stronger from this crisis and deliver this excellent performance.”
AJ Bell analyst Danni Hewson said: “Bloomsbury faced a painful transition following its mid-noughties peak at the height of Pottermania but it is no longer a one-hit wonder with a diverse list of bestsellers in its portfolio.”