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Scholastic 3Q loss nearly doubles, shares tumble

NEW YORK (AP) -- Scholastic Corp.'s fiscal third-quarter loss nearly doubled because of shrinking demand for the publisher's best-selling "The Hunger Games" books. Shares tumbled Thursday as Scholastic cut its guidance for the year.

Last year's "Hunger Games" sales got a big boost from the March release of the movie based on the first book in the trilogy. But the books' "substantial" sales decline in the December-February quarter was even worse than Scholastic expected.

As readers buy more electronic books on tablets and e-readers, Scholastic has been investing in e-books and other digital ventures to stay relevant. Those investments also weighed on the recent quarter's results.

For the three months ended Feb. 28, Scholastic posted a loss of $20.1 million, or 63 cents per share, compared with a loss of $10.3 million, or 33 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter.

Excluding one-time items such as severance costs, the recent quarter's loss totaled 57 cents per share.

Revenue dropped 19 percent, to $380.5 million from $467 million. Book sales dropped 59 percent to $45.9 million, and sales from book clubs associated with schools fell 21 percent to $57.1 million. Sales in the company's educational technology division, on which Scholastic is increasingly focused, rose 5 percent to $41.8 million, and the unit's loss narrowed.

Scholastic is cutting costs as it deals with slower book sales and delays in schools' purchases of its educational products. It expects its digital book initiatives and the education technology products to drive profit growth starting next year.

The company cut its outlook for the year ending May 31 to a profit, excluding one-time items, of $1.10 to $1.30 per share on revenue of $1.75 billion to $1.8 billion. Its previous outlook was for profit of $1.40 to $1.60 per share on revenue of $1.8 billion to $1.9 billion.

In premarket trading, Scholastic shares fell $4.32, or 14 percent, to $26.75. The stock has dropped 17 percent in the past 12 months.