An illustrated Harry Potter book and chef Tom Kerridge's upcoming new healthy lifestyle offering are among titles set to help keep publisher Bloomsbury on track after a weak start to 2019.

The group saw half-year pre-tax profits fall by nearly a fifth - down 19% to £1.3 million in the six months to August 31.

Earnings in the consumer division were the hardest hit, plunging 81% on an underlying basis to £600,000 as it said releases would be even more weighted towards the second half than normal.

Shares fell 4% after the interim results.

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Bloomsbury is looking to a "very strong" autumn and winter schedule, with 10 titles on the list that it claims are recent, current or potential best-sellers.

These include an illustrated edition of Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire by JK Rowling and Jim Kay, published this month, as well as Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge's new title in December, called Lose Weight And Get Fit.

Nigel Newton, chief executive of Bloomsbury, insisted it was an "encouraging" first half and the group confirmed its full-year guidance.

He said: "The consumer division results are more heavily weighted to the second half this year, with our biggest titles, including the illustrated Harry Potter And The Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling and Jim Kay, published in October ahead of the peak Christmas period."

Bloomsbury said sales of the Harry Potter series remain strong as the popularity of the boy wizard books show no sign of waning.

It said the paperback edition of Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone was the eighth bestselling children's book of the year to date, according to UK Nielsen Bookscan - 22 years after it was first published.

Asda has announced it is to increase employees' basic hourly pay as it remains in dispute with unions over the conditions of a new workforce contract.

The supermarket said it will increase its basic rate for its hourly-paid retail employees to £9.18 from April 1 next year, following an increase to £9 from November 3 as all workers move on to a "single, industry-standard contract".

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The retailer said the basic hourly rate on the majority of contracts in April this year was £8.21.

Hayley Tatum, senior vice president of people at Asda, said: "I'm pleased that we're able to confirm a further increase in the basic rate of pay for our retail colleagues, which will be introduced next year, and give certainty to our colleagues despite an unpredictable economic landscape and challenging market."

The chief auditor for Serco during the electronic tagging debacle has been fined £78,000 over his role, the accounting watchdog has revealed.

The Financial Reporting Council said Ross Howard failed to exercise "professional scepticism" when he was responsible for combing through Serco's books in 2011 and 2012.

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The FRC said Mr Howard was severely reprimanded and will have to pay a discounted settlement of £78,000, following the probe into Deloitte’s audit of Serco Georgrafix.  

Serco claimed cash from the Government for services it was not providing.

A Serco settlement was made for £22.9 million. Serco admitted some people it was supposed to be monitoring via its electronic tags on behalf of the Government were either in jail, dead or had left the country.

Earlier this year Deloitte was fined £4.2 million for its role as Serco's auditor at the time.

Another auditor, Helen George, was also fined £97,500 and "severely reprimanded".