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HMV pins hopes on Harry Potter release

LONDON: Britain’s music and book vendor HMV Group Plc., faced with sagging sales, pins its hopes for revival on the July publication of the sixth Harry Potter book and several new DVD heads. The British company, which has considerable presence in the Asia- Pacific and Canada and which owns the Waterstone’s bookstore chain, said the media build-up on the Harry Potter book could realise in better sales, but fierce price competition will mean JK Rowling’s next best-seller may not offer much help.

The company’s 53-week pre-tax profit ending April 30 was 136.2 million pounds, an increase of 9.9 per cent in terms of a 52-week corresponding previous year period performance. Sales stood at 1.863 billion pounds.

Chief executive Alan Giles said, “Things have improved a little bit since the low point in April and May, but I would describe the overall U.K. picture as subdued.”

He said the first week sales of Coldplay’s new album “X&Y;” had been the second highest in U.K. charts and advance orders for the Harry Potter book has been on a par with its top-selling predecessor.

“It’s clearly going to be a hugely competitive market for that title, I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of gross margin in it for anyone, but we’re not expecting that.”

DVDs account for 44 per cent of the company’s U.K. sales and the prospects appear to be bright with the planned launch of titles like “Sin City”, “Batman Begins”, “War of the Worlds” and “Star Wars III” due in the second half of this year.

In music section, releases planned include titles from Red Hot Chili Peppers and Franz Ferdinand.

Games and software too hold promise, according to Giles, especially since Sony Corp.’s PlayStation Portable goes on sale in Europe on 1 September.

The company has 102 stores in Canada, 53 in Japan and 33 in Australia in addition to 201 outlets and 194 Waterstone’s stores in the U.K. It plans to open 25 stores and 10 Waterstone’s outlets in Britain this year.

The company’s chief operating officer Brian McLaughlin is due to retire at the end of December and managing director of HMV, U.K. and Ireland, Steve Knott, will join the board in August. The company said it will not be looking for a replacement for McLaughlin.

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