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Harry Potter: What's the fuss?
New installment could be big for Scholastic, but disappointment for stocks of booksellers.
January 15, 2003: 3:13 PM EST
By Parija Bhatnagar, CNN/Money Staff Writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - While legions of young fans strap down this summer for the mystical ride of the soon-to-be-released fifth Harry Potter book, some analysts say its magic may not necessarily rub off on the "scary" adult world of stocks and shares.

Publisher Scholastic Corp. announced Wednesday that the next installment of the wildly popular Harry Potter children's series by author J.K. Rowling -- "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" -- is due in stores June 21.

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The next installment of the Harry Potter children's series is to hit the store shelves this summer. CNNfn's Jen Rogers takes a closer look at the big business of Harry Potter.

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Scholastic, along with the nation's top booksellers, said they are ecstatic about the impending release. That's no surprise given that the Harry Potter series has become the single-biggest product in the last few years for Scholastic.

The series has sold a total of about 80 million hardback and paperback copies in the United States and 192 million worldwide since the first book was released in 1998, according to Scholastic. The series also has been published in 55 languages.

"Next to the Bible, this has no competition," said Ray Manchuk, senior vice president of finance and investor relations with Scholastic. "The great thing about the Harry Potter books is that it appeals to both children and adults, and 50 percent of its readers are adults."

The series about the education of a young sorcerer is an incredible cash cow for Scholastic and a boon for the stock. Its total sales in 2000 of $90 million made up 6 percent of Scholastic's revenue. In 2001, sales of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," the fourth book in the series, totaled $200 million, 10 percent of Scholastic's total revenue of $2 billion.

"In 2002 we didn't have a new book, but our book sales still came in at $82 million, about 4 percent of our revenue on the back of the Harry Potter movies," said Manchuk. "With this new book, we expect a big jump in sales and revenue."

Scholastic shares moved higher in morning trade Wednesday.

The first two books have been made into top-grossing movies by Warner Bros., a unit of AOL Time Warner, which also has film rights to the other two books that have been published and options on "Order of the Phoenix" and others planned in the series.

The first Harry Potter movie, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," took in $968 million in worldwide box office receipts, making it second only to "Titanic." The second film, "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," came out last fall and has earned $772 million worldwide, putting it in ninth place. AOL Time Warner is the parent company of CNN/Money.

While Barnes & Noble and Borders, the No. 1 and No. 2 booksellers, said they're gearing up for bonanza promotion events similar to those in the past to launch book in their stores, analysts said the hype could be much ado about nothing for their stocks.

"The Harry Potter series has had a nice run. But as we've seen, with the second movie that didn't do as well as the first, there's a Harry Potter fatigue that's setting in," said David Lichtman, analyst with Merrill Lynch. "It's interesting that Scholastic has timed the release of the book for June when spending on books typically picks up. But bestsellers make up a relatively small percentage of sales generated for bookstores, about 10 percent."

Added Lichtman, "It's generally hard to quantify how sales of a book series impacts the stock for a bookseller. I don't think a new Harry Potter book is likely to significantly impact shares of booksellers."

Jeffrey Fieler, analyst with Bear Stearns, said shares of or Borders, for example, could be boosted not from one bestseller but if there's an abnormally large number of bestsellers in a year.

But booksellers aren't reading between the lines and are getting ready to plan special events.

"We released the fourth book at midnight and we also had a slumber party for the kids and parents at our stores," said Caroline Brown, spokeswoman for Barnes & Noble. "We could be doing something along those lines for the new Harry Potter book release."  Top of page

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