Shipments of new Harry Potter book to Asda supermarkets canceled in Britain

Publisher Bloomsbury PLC said Tuesday it had canceled shipments of the new Harry Potter book to one of Britain's biggest supermarket chains in a dispute over unpaid bills.

Bloomsbury said it had canceled delivery of 500,000 copies of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" to Asda, which is owned by U.S. retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Bloomsbury's marketing director, Minna Fry, said the publisher hoped to resolve the dispute before the book - the seventh and final installment in the boy wizard's adventures - is published on Saturday.

"It's to do with the fact that they owe us money and haven't settled their bills," Fry told British Broadcasting Corp. radio. "It has been going on a while, going on for weeks actually, and we always said we wouldn't provide them with the books until that was sorted out. And that's what's happening."

She did not say how much Asda owed the publisher.

Asda accused Bloombsury of retaliating for its criticism of the book's recommended retail price of 17.99 pounds (US$37; EUR 27). Asda plans to sell "Deathly Hallows" for 8.87 pounds (US$18.14; EUR 13.17).

On Monday, Asda accused Bloomsbury of "attempting to hold children to ransom" by setting the price too high.

"Setting the RRP (Recommended Retail Price) at this level can only be seen as blatant profiteering on their part," said Peter Pritchard, Director of General Merchandise at Asda.

Bloomsbury denied the dispute was connected to the price of the book. Many large chains are offering "Deathly Hallows" at big discounts, with supermarket Tesco matching Asda's price of 8.87 pounds and book chain Waterstone's selling it for 8.99 pounds (US$18.38; EUR 13.35).

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