Thomas Nelson is looking to divest Ceres, its candle manufacturer and marketer, in a bid to improve the results in its troubled gifts division. The company took a one-time charge of $5.7 million in the third quarter ended December 31, 2000, for classifying Ceres as a discontinued operation, a move that resulted in a net loss of $5.1 million in the most recent quarter, compared to net income of $2.8 million in the third quarter of fiscal 2000. Income from operations was $498,000, compared to $2.7 million last year, while total sales for the third period rose 17.8%, to $72.7 million.

Although sales in the gift division increased 14.4%, to $18.3 million in the quarter, revenues "were far below our expectations," company chairman Sam Moore said, adding that the division lost money in the quarter and in the first nine months of the year. Nelson, which hired Fran Salamon to run its gifts division late last year (News, Dec. 4, 2000), is searching for strategies to turn around the unit's performance and has already implemented a reduction in its number of product offerings.

On the publishing side, sales were up 19% in the quarter, to $54.4 million, with Bible sales particularly strong. Sales of electronic reference products also continue to show steady gains, Moore said.

For the first nine months of the year, the company had a net loss of $1.3 million, with sales up 15.1%, to $221.7 million