Third quarter sales fell 9% at the Hachette Book Group compared to 2020, contributing to a 1.2% decline in overall sales to Lagardère’s publishing division, the company reported this morning. Total revenue for the publishing group was €696 million, compared to €704 million a year ago.

The decline in the U.S. was attributed to a difficult comparison to last year, when HBG released the bestselling Midnight Sun as well as various titles related to the Black Lives Matter movement. Lagardère said that bright spots in the quarter were gains in adult fiction and higher distribution revenue.

In addition to sales falling in the U.S. in the quarter, revenue was down 3% in the U.K. and declined 3% in France. Those declines were somewhat offset by a 4% increase in revenue in Spain/Latin America.

Despite the third quarter sales decline, revenue in the publishing group was up 9% through the first nine months of 2021 over the comparable period last year, rising to €1.83 billion. HBG CEO Michael Pietsch said nine month sales were "significantly above 2020."

Lagardère doesn’t release profits in it quarterly updates, but the company did say it expects the publishing division to finish the year with an operating margin close to 12%, as profits continue to benefit from “strong sales momentum and a favorable product mix.” The profit forecast does not include Workman Publishing, which HBG acquired in late September.

In the quarterly update, Lagardère said it continues to take steps to both revise its ownership structure and to prepare for an expected public offering for all of its shares next year following Vivendi’s acquisition of more than 30% of Lagardère’s shares. By French law, Vivendi is required to make an offer for all of the company’s shares.