Pre-tax profit rose 10% at Bloomsbury Publishing in the fiscal year ended February 29, 2020, over fiscal 2019, rising to £13.2 million. Revenue was flat, at £162 million. A big jump in sales in the U.K. publisher’s non-consumer division, helped by sales of digital products, offset a 2.5% decline in consumer revenue, which slipped to £96.8 million. Sales in North America fell 8% in the year, to £40 million.
Bloomsbury’s look back at fiscal 2020 was overshadowed by its forecast for the current year, when the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic began to take hold. In prepared remarks accompanying the release of last year’s financial results, chief executive Nigel Newton said the pandemic “has led to significant disruption across all our key markets. The impact may be substantial.” Newton said that orders for print books, which comprised 79% of its sales last year, are being affected in all its markets, though he noted that its warehouses, including its facility in the U.S., remain open.
Through April 2020, year-to-date revenue was down 3% compared to last year, with print revenues at 87% of last year’s sales in the period. Offsetting that decline was a jump in academic digital revenue, which was up 52% in the first two months of the year. Bloomsbury warned, however, that its academic customers “face major uncertainties over student recruitment,” which “could bring financial uncertainty for many of our digital resource customers.”
Given all the uncertainty surrounding the impact of the virus on its business, Bloomsbury said it is “unable to provide guidance for the year ending 28 February 2021 at this time.” Overall, though, the publisher said “our strategy of expanding and leveraging our digital rights and products means that we are well placed to benefit from increased demand for our digital resources, audio, and e-books.”
The company did run what it called a worst-case scenario projection to test its financial strength. The model used an assumption that print revenues are reduced by 60% to 65% for the three months of expected global coronavirus restrictions, through July 2020, and gradual recovery through to March 2021, while cost reduction measures already implemented—including salary reductions and reducing discretionary spend such as one marketing and non-essential capital expenditure—would stay in place. “Under this severe but plausible downside scenario, [Bloomsbury] has sufficient liquidity to be able to manage these downside assumptions,” the company reported.