Driven by a number of acquisitions and hundreds of bestselling books, profits at Penguin Random House jumped 33% in the first half of 2019 over the comparable period in 2018. Revenue in the period rose 11.3%. Operating EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) rose from €171 million to €227 million, and sales hit €1.65 billion, up from €1.48 billion.
Acquisitions that affected first half results, as detailed by PRH CEO Markus Dohle in a letter to worldwide employees, were the purchases of children’s publisher Little Tiger Group in London, Spanish-language literary publisher Ediciones Salamandra in Barcelona, and Catalan-language publisher La Campana Llibres (also based in Barcelona). PRH also acquired a 45% stake in Sourcebooks in late May.
Organic growth was led once again by Michelle Obama’s Becoming, which sold more than 2.8 million copies across all PRH companies in the first half of the year. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens sold over 2 million copies in all formats in the period and The Mister by E.L. James also did well, Bertelsmann said. Overall, PRH had 191 titles on the New York Times bestseller list in the U.S. compared to 178 in the first half of 2018. In the U.K., 46% of all titles on the Sunday Times bestseller lists were released by PRH imprints, according to Bertelsmann.
A third factor in the sales increase was “high growth rates in audio formats,” Bertelsmann said. In his letter, Dohle also pointed to PRH’s “thriving” distribution business.
Dohle closed his relatively short letter by noting that “next week we begin our most important selling season of the year" with a wide range of titles that should appeal to all readers. Perhaps knowing that PRH will be facing a difficult comparison to last year’s second half when Becoming sold 7 million copies in less than two months, Dohle urged employees to "finishing 2019 as well as we started it."