Publishing group Pearson yesterday said the fortunes of Penguin books division were improving as it reported a strong first half.
Pearson said Penguin had made a solid start to 2005, with a very strong bestseller performance in the US and the UK. The group said sales at the book arm had lifted by five per cent in the six months to June 30, in line with expectations.
It added that it expected further improvement in profits at its business arm, which publishes the Financial Times, in the second half.
Pearson said underlying group sales had risen ten per cent while operating profits had lifted to £33 million from £7 million in the same period in 2004.
Chief executive Marjorie Scardino said the company was very pleased with the first half performance.
"We still have the majority of the year's trading ahead of us, but the first half momentum supports our confidence that we will meet our financial goals," she said.
The weak US dollar last year, as well as a softening in the US book market as readers switched from books to newspapers ahead of the presidential election, affected Pearson, which generates a large chunk of sales in the US.
It was also hit by teething problems at a new automated warehouse in Rugby, whose performance has since improved. Pearson said Penguin was seeing good success with new imprints, homegrown authors and its new premium paperback format.
Advertising revenues at the FT were up five per cent in the first half and the newspaper was expected to break even for the year as a whole if revenues grow at a similar rate in the second half. The group said its school business was performing well in rapidly growing markets and that it expected its higher education arm to grow by about four per cent this year.