October 28, 2016 / 1:27 PM / in a year

The eight-year-old who gave publisher Bloomsbury Pottermania

(Reuters) - Alice Newton was just 8 years old when she gave Harry Potter his big break.

Copies of the book of the play of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child parts One and Two are displayed at a bookstore in London, Britain July 31, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall

Her publisher father asked her to read the first book in J.K. Rowling’s Hogwarts series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, to test its appeal.

“I let Alice read for me and she came down in an hour later glowing about how wonderful this book was,” recollects Nigel Newton, who is also chief executive of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (BLPU.L).

“I think it is now a classic like Winnie the Pooh or (the books of) Roald Dahl or C.S. Lewis, and it will go on,” he told Reuters on Friday.

The franchise accounted for over 7 percent of Bloomsbury’s first-half sales.

With a new play, a book of the script and a spin-off film “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” opening in November, Bloomsbury expects Pottermania to be a “big contributor” in the second half of its year ending February 2017.

Newton said an illustrated version of the second Potter book, released on Oct. 4, had sold more copies in its first week than the illustrated version of the first book had in its first week on the stands a year ago.

In-house broker Investec forecasts full-year sales of 133.7 million pounds and pretax profit of 11.8 million pounds for Bloomsbury.

Bloomsbury plans to mark the franchise’s 20-year anniversary next July with four special editions of the first Potter book with artwork from each of the houses in Hogwarts, Newton said. It also plans an illustrated version of the Fantastic Beasts book in 2017.

He added that Bloomsbury was in talks with Rowling over potential future books, but declined to say when and if any future work would materialize.

Newton said Bloomsbury had increased prices of some of its academic titles in August as the pound slid after Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, but did not specify whether the price of the recently-released Potter book had been raised too.

He said Bloomsbury could absorb any sterling impact over the short term because more than quarter of its sales are in the United States.

Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain and Esha Vaish in Bengaluru; Editing by Ruth Pitchford

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