Acquisitions, organic growth, and favorable exchange rates all contributed to a record year for Penguin Random House in 2019, parent company Bertelsmann reported. Revenue rose 6.2% last year, to €3.64 billion, up from €3.42 billion in 2018. EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) increased 6.3% over 2018, to €561 million.
Acquisitions in the year included the Little Tiger Group in the U.K., Ediciones Salamandra in Spain, a stake in Sourcebooks, and the purchase of global publishing rights for bestselling children’s author Eric Carle.
In the U.S., which accounted for just over 56% of total PRH sales (about $2.2 billion at current exchange rates), gains were led by Where the Crawdads Sing, which Bertelsmann said sold more than four million copies across all formats, while Educated and Becoming each sold more than two million copies. In children’s books, books by Dr. Seuss sold more than 10 million copies in the year. Bertelsmann also cited audiobooks as a growth driver not only in the U.S., but in most of its markets.
In comments accompanying release of the year-end financials, Bertelsmann CEO Thomas Rabe said the company intends to “continue to expand Penguin Random House’s businesses over the next few years, including through acquisitions.”
In his letter to employees, PRH CEO Markus Dohle focused on the ongoing challenges brought about by the new coronavirus pandemic. After thanking staff for their contributions to last year’s successes, Dohle wrote: “2019 seems so long ago, as we now face a global pandemic that has shaken our book community to its core.” While PRH has built a strong foundation and infrastructure, Dohle said that with the spread of coronavirus, “it is inevitable that we will have to endure some impact on our business this year. With this understanding, we will need to adjust and adapt our business on a daily basis and maintain a very cost- and cash-conscious approach.”
Dohle expressed his “deep gratitude, on behalf of our entire company, to our heroic supply-chain colleagues around the world, who are shipping books wherever we can.” He also acknowledged that, while many retail partners are struggling with the impact of the virus, PRH "will continue to support them during and after this crisis to get our authors’ books into the hands of readers—today and tomorrow.”