Random House parent company Bertelsmann put a cap on a record year for the publishing house, announcing that worldwide revenue at RH rose 22.5%, to 2.14 billion euros, while operating EBIT skyrocketed 75.6% to 325 million euros. The primary reason for the increase, of course, was the Fifty Shades trilogy which Bertelsmann said sold more than 70 million copies in all formats through RH’s English, German and Spanish language companies.
In a relatively short letter to RH employees, company chairman Markus Dohle praised the staff for their “highly effective execution of our author- and content-centric, and market- and reader-oriented strategy. With your know-how and passion, and your collaborative and entrepreneurial spirit, you have expertly navigated the new order of publishing, and positioned us well for future opportunities.” Dohle went on to note that RH had good first quarter with not only the sales momentum from Fifty Shades (which was released last March) but also having strong sales from titles that range from ; R. J. Palacio’s Wonder to La Reina Descalza by Ildelfonso Falcones. In its release, Bertelsmann noted that with RH returning to “a normalized business development” in 2013 as well as low growth in the euro zone and increased investment in shaping the company it “expects a stable for slightly declining business performance in 2013.”
A good portion of Dohle’s letter was devoted to the upcoming merger with Penguin in which he reinforced points made at the time of the merger announcement. “By joining our forces while maintaining our imprints’ distinct publishing identities, we will expand our authors’ reach on a global scale, and connect with readers in new ways. By enhancing our service portfolio, we will bolster our relevance as book publishers. And by pooling our resources and investments, and by leveraging our combined expertise, we will increase our scale—both in print and in digital,” Dohle wrote. “I am personally committed to bringing together the best of both worlds to establish Penguin Random House as the world’s most forward-seeing and creative home for authors and publishing talent: a place that is built on a strong foundation of people orientation, operational excellence, and a global footprint—one that embodies true partnership internally and externally.”
Neither Bertelsmann nor RH had much to say on the digital front, noting only that RH’s worldwide e-book catalogue now has over 47,000 titles. A RH spokesperson said digital sales rose by double digits in all its territories, while physical sales finished the year on a strong note.
Bertelsmann said it is confident that it will receive regulatory approval for the Penguin merger in countries that still have not made a decision and said it still expects to complete the deal in the second half of 2013. The company also said that after divesting low-growth business in recent years, “Bertelsmann is back on the growth path.