Profits at Bloomsbury will smash City expectations after reading provided a ‘ray of sunshine’ in the third lockdown.
Bookworm Britons snapped up the new Sarah Maas novel, A Court of Silver Flames, and Anna North’s Outlawed – as well as old favourites such as the Dishoom cook book and the publisher’s eternal cash cow Harry Potter.
On the back of an unexpected sales surge in February – the final month of its financial year –Bloomsbury upgraded its forecasts for the second time in as many months.
Book boom: On the back of an unexpected sales surge in February Bloomsbury upgraded its forecasts for the second time in as many months
Turnover will be higher than the £171million it previously predicted, while profits will be ‘significantly’ ahead of the £14.8million it pinpointed in January.
Nigel Newton, the chief executive, admitted it is not clear whether the reading renaissance will continue once restrictions lift.
But the company could take encouragement from the sales of new books compared with a boom in demand for long novels such as Middlemarch and War and Peace last year.
Bloomsbury has paid back £63,000 of furlough funds to the Government, and repaid temporary salary reductions for staff.
Stock Watch – Keywords studios
Keywood Studios will pay dividends again this year after a pandemic boom in people playing video games.
The AIM-listed group, based in Dublin, provides services such as translation and visual and sound effects to video game developers.
It said the launch of the Playstation 5 and the Xbox X/S series also increased demand for its services.
Profits at the group, whose shares climbed 4.3 per cent, or 104p, to 2510p, rose by more than a third to £48million last year.
And its online academic platform has performed well as teaching at schools and universities has stayed remote. Investors celebrated the book binge and its shares rose 11.2 per cent, or 30p, to 298p.
An upgrade to forecasts also helped Halma trade higher. The smoke detector and safety equipment maker now expects profits for 2020/21 to be in line with the previous year’s £267million. Shareholders had been braced for a 5 per cent fall.
In a trading update, Halma said it was performing well in Asia – driven by demand from China.
But its medical arm has been hit by the disruption to elective surgery caused by the pandemic. Shares rose 2.3 per cent, or 54p, to 2359p.
It was FTSE 250-listed Softcat’s profit news that really wowed the market, however.
The IT reseller, which sells hardware and software systems to small businesses, jumped 14.5 per cent, or 226p, to 1785p, after a 10 per cent rise in profits in the six months to the end of January on the back of cost-cutting.
The wider FTSE 250 finished the day 0.3 per cent higher, up 70.78 points, to 21,402.54, while the FTSE 100 rose 0.2 per cent, or 13.70 points, to 6712.89, as bargain hunters swooped on battered travel and leisure stocks.
Housebuilders swung into the red, however, as UK house price growth slowed in January compared with the previous month.
Taylor Wimpey sank 3.1 per cent, or 5.7p, to 178.15p, Barratt Developments by 1.7 per cent, or 13.4p, to 764.6p, and Persimmon by 1.1 per cent, or 32p, to 2945p.
Average prices rose by 7.5 per cent in the year to January, according to the Office for National Statistics, compared with 8 per cent in December.
This was put down to the third lockdown and uncertainty about the length of the stamp duty holiday.
Bellway also lost ground – falling 2.3 per cent, or 79p, to 3413p – despite reinstating its dividend at 35p per share after it reported record half-year results.
Revenues rose by almost 12 per cent to £1.7billion as it completed the sale of 5,656 homes.
Travis Perkins (up 1 per cent, or 15p, to 1600p) has taken another step towards separating Wickes from the wider business.
The firm has now submitted key documents to the Financial Conduct Authority, although it did not provide a more detailed timeline for when it plans to list the DIY chain on the main market of the London Stock Exchange.
Shares in Harvester and Toby Carvery-owner Mitchells & Butlers rose 2.5 per cent, or 8p, to 324.5p as it shrugged off an investor revolt at the company’s annual meeting after at least 23 per cent of votes were cast against the re-election of five directors.
Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.