Bloomsbury reported record financial results for the fiscal year ended February 28, 2021, with revenue increasing 14%, to £185.1 million ($262 million), and pre-tax earnings up 22%, to £19.2 million. “The popularity of reading has been a ray of sunshine in an otherwise very dark year,” chief executive Nigel Newton said in a statement.
The U.K. remained Bloomsbury’s largest market with revenue rising 12% to £117.4 million, while sales in the U.S. increased 27%, to about $75 million. One of Bloomsbury’s goals in fiscal 2022, the publisher said, is to lessen its dependence on the U.K. Companywide sales were up across all formats with print increasing 8% (18% in the consumer division) and digital sales growing 54%.
By division, the company’s consumer group had a solid year with sales up 22%, to £118.3 million. Within the consumer group Bloombury’s children’s division had a 26% sales increase, to £74.6 million. Bloomsbury publishes Harry Potter in the U.K. and sales of the franchise rose 7% last year. Another top author, Sarah J. Maas, saw her increase by 129% compared to last year, driven by bestsellers in the U.K. and U.S, Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood and A Court of Silver Flames, as well as strong backlist sales.
On the adult side, sales increased 17%, to £43.7 million as sales of both frontlist and backlist increased. Strong U.S. backlist titles included Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, White Rage by Carol Anderson and Women Rowing North by Mary Pipher. New titles that did well in the year in the U.S. included Humankind by Rutger Bregman, Piranesi by Susanna Clarke and Outlawed by Anna North.
In Bloomsbury’s smaller non-consumer division, revenue rose 1% to £66.8 million, led by a 49% increase in the Bloomsbury Digital Resources division, to £12.4 million.
With its strong fiscal 2021 performance, Bloomsbury said it expects results in 2022 to be “comfortably ahead” of expectations by stock market analysts, which calls for revenue to slip about 4%, to £177.5 million, and pre-tax profits to fall 9%, to £17.4 million.
Bloomsbury has made a number of acquisitions recently, including the March 2020 purchase of Zed Books Limited for £1.7 million, and the April 2021 acquisition of Red Globe Press, the academic imprint of Springer Nature Group, for £3.7 million.
In its year-end report, Bloomsbury said it is “actively targeting further acquisition opportunities in line with our long-term growth strategy” and it made good on that comment by announcing the purchase of Head of Zeus today.
Founded in 2012 by U.K. publishing veteran Anthony Cheetham, Head of Zeus is an independent publisher of genre fiction and narrative nonfiction and children’s books. It has a strong roster of bestselling authors, including Dan Jones, Cixin Liu, Victoria Hislop, and Lesley Thomson, and Elodie Harper, whose novel The Wolf Den is currently a top 10 title in the U.K. The purchase price is reported to be £8.45 million
“Head of Zeus’s entrepreneurial and innovative approach to publishing, and its wide range of trade titles, will make a strong addition to Bloomsbury’s own," Nigel Newton, said of the acquisition. "Bloomsbury will be able to provide the scale
and digital platforms to boost Head of Zeus’ success while operating as an independent imprint within the Bloomsbury Consumer division."