Lagardere reported this morning that total revenue in its publishing segment fell 5.9%, to €2.04 billion, or 4.4% excluding foreign exchange. The publishing unit performed better in the fourth quarter with sales off 3.4% to €537 million. Lagardere said the “Stephenie Meyer effect” was completely gone in the fourth quarter and that was evident in the performance of the Hachette Book Group were fourth quarter sales rose 12.8%. HBG had been down for the first nine months of the year because of strong Meyer sales in 2010.
In the U.S., sales were led by new bestsellers and an increase in e-book sales; at the end of the fourth quarter e-book sales accounted for 20% of revenue in HBG’s adult trade group. Including audio downloads, digital sales represented 22% of HBG adult sales in 2011, up 130% over 2010. Lagardere noted that HBG achieved the increase in fourth quarter sales despite the lingering effects of the Borders bankruptcy as well as the impact of e-books,which generate lower net sales per unit but higher margins (Lagardere will release earnings March 8).
Lagardere noted that in English-speaking countries the year was dominated by the rise of the e-book and problems for a number of distributors that included the Borders bankruptcy and also REDgroup in Australia. There were good performances by Education sales in France (+2.4%), driven by reforms to the French secondary school system, and General Literature (+2.4%). Activity expanded in Spain (+1.1%), where Education sales were also boosted by school reforms.
E-book sales accounted for 6% of the publishing group’s results worldwide sales in the year; the U.K. had the second highest e-book sales with the format accounting for 10% of adult trade sales. In France, Lagardere noted, “new e-readers were launched in the autumn but have not triggered a breakthrough in the market yet.”