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Is it too late to cash in on Bloomsbury’s share-price boom?

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Earlier this year, Bloomsbury Publishing (LSE: BMY) was under the spotlight after its share price touched a 15-year high of 342p and finished 2020 well ahead of market expectations. Though many saw this as a direct result of Covid-19 restrictions, the Harry Potter publisher might just be getting started.

Recording £185.1 million in sales, the publishing company earned a cool £17.3m in pre-tax profits showing a 14% increase from its 2019-20 figures. The company also showed excellent overseas sales, with 63% percent of sales coming from beyond UK shores. Shareholders also saw a 2% increase in diluted earnings per share as it grew from 13.40 pence to 16.71 pence in 2020. The board also proposed a 10% increase in the final dividend after a strong fiscal year.  

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This surge is not a direct result of people being restricted indoors but an amalgamation of various business decisions and changing market trends. The company grew its digital publishing resources greatly, which showed a 49% jump, raking in £12.4 million revenue – significantly higher than the UK market. The publisher also acquired the Red Globe Press list, which increased the catalogue of academic publishings in humanities and social sciences.

The publishing house also saw a 74% increase in net cash, which stood at £54.5 million on 28 February 2021 compared to £31.3 million in 2020. Combined with a robust strategy for continued growth, the board expects another profitable year, stating that the company will be comfortably ahead of market expectations in 2022 as well. 

Bloomsbury Publishing also has a large and diverse set of backlist titles which, according to the board, “really struck a chord with readers throughout the pandemic on themes such as humanity, social inclusion, escapism, fantasy, cookery and baking.” 

But will this sudden spike in book sales crash as restrictions are lifted? Millennials say no. Research shows that the oft berated generation of youngsters read more than their parents. In fact, surveys by Pew Research showed a growing trend of youngsters preferring verifiable and reviewed information to what they see online. The distrust has driven youngsters to turn to reliable publications, either digital or physical. 

People are increasingly turning to books for information about new hobbies, pets, parenting, cooking and self-help sections. The 9% increase in audiobook downloads and 18% increase in e-book purchases is bringing in new adopters who see immense value in shared expertise.  

I feel a growing demand for well-researched and experienced voices in a time where media distrust is high across the globe. This is an encouraging sign, which makes me consider the stock for my own portfolio. Like any industry, the market can be flooded with sub-standard products with growing demand but Bloomsbury has, year-after-year, shown a commitment to quality. The publishing industry is evolving, and has tremendous potential in the future as torchbearers in carrying forward vital information. Bloomsbury Publishing’s expanding digital presence and vast catalogue places its shares for continued success in the market. 

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Suraj Radhakrishnan has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Bloomsbury Publishing. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

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