A combination of a $50 million contribution from the acquisition of the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt trade division and a $7 million gain from currency fluctuations were the two big drivers in boosting sales by 19% at HarperCollins in the quarter ended August 31, 2021, over the comparable period last year. Revenue was $546 million, while EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) rose to $85 million, a 20% increase. HC bought HMH trade in May.
Parent company News Corp said the revenue growth was driven by higher sales in the U.K., as well as by a rebound in sales in its Christian books group, which had been hurt by closures of churches and bookstores during the pandemic. The U.S. general books segment also had a good quarter, News said, driven by The Cellist by Daniel Silva, the Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn, and Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty by Anderson Cooper. Backlist sales grew in the quarter, and accounted for 62% of sales, up from 60% in the quarter a year ago.
Supporting the higher spending, News Corp executives said, was a continuing strong appetite for books. In a conference call with analysts discussing results, News Corp CEO Robert Thomson said print sales remain resurgent. Digital sales rose modestly in the quarter, up 5% compared to the prior year, with sales of both downloadable audiobooks and e-books up.
Thomson, who had been highly critical of Penguin Random House’s $2.18 billion bid for Simon & Schuster, saying the acquisition would create “a book behemoth,” did not address the Department of Justice’s decision to block the acquisition from being approved, nor was he asked about it by analysts. HC had made an aggressive attempt to buy S&S.