The Bonnier Group is a family-owned international media group based in Sweden with a presence in the U.S., Germany, the U.K. Eastern Europe, and elsewhere, with more than 9,000 employees in 16 countries working in TV, daily newspapers, business and trade press, magazines, film, books, radio and digital media. The company’s original publishing business began in 1804. The group is wholly owned by the Bonnier family, which has been running it for seven generations.
Bonnier consolidated its Nordic and International publishing divisions into Bonnier Books, which encompasses all of the company’s publishing operations. Bonnierförlagen includes general and specialized Swedish publishers such as Albert Bonniers Förlag and Wahlström & Widstrand. Bonnierförlagen also runs AdLibris Internetbokhandel, the largest online bookseller in Scandinavia, and several book clubs. In Finland Bonnier operates publishers Tammi and WSOY, and holds 50% of Cappelen Damm in Norway. Bonnier Media Deutschland publishes trade and children’s books in Germany.
English-language publishing is under Bonnier Publishing and includes Hot Key Books, Templar Publishing, Autumn Publishing Group, Igloo Books, Piccadilly Press, Weldon Owen, The Five Mile Press in Australia, Little Bee Books in the U.S. and Piccolia in France, as well as Blink Publishing, which publishes nonfiction for adults.
Analysis & Key Developments
Bonnier CEO Tomas Franzén cited the company’s “radical transformation” to become a “leading digital media company.” Bonnier AB posted overall group net sales for 2014 of 23.7 billion SEK, a drop from 24.35 billion SEK (revised figures) in 2013. The decline is mainly attributed to shrinking print ad sales.
Net sales at Bonnier Books grew by 218 million SEK (3.5%), from 6.25 billion SEK in 2013 to 6.47 billion SEK in 2014. This division is the company’s largest in terms of revenues, with an 8.7% EBITA boost of 437 million SEK. The increase was mainly driven by strong growth in German operations. Bonnier’s Finnish publishers increased revenues and profited despite a shrinking market. Norway’s Cappelen Damm produced one-third of all textbooks sold in Norwegian schools, and was also strong in translated literature.
In May 2014, Hartmut Jedicke stepped down as CEO of Bonnier Books International. Alongside this management change, Bonnier announced that it would combine Books Nordic and Books International into Bonnier Books. Jacob Dalborg, then CEO of Books Nordic, became head of the newly formed division.
Bonnier transformed Bonnier Publishing under Richard Johnson, who was brought in four years ago to integrate recently acquired smaller publishers, expand operations, and bring the company back into the black. The book publishers have been revamped, and 80% of the 440 employees began in the past two years. Profits have grown from -5 million GBP in 2010 to 2.4 million GBP in 2014.
In fall 2014, Bonnier Publishing acquired British children’s book publishers Igloo Books, based on its expertise in mass market publishing, and became the country’s third-largest children’s book publisher. With Igloo, Bonnier hopes to double sales at Bonnier Publishing from 50 million GBP a year to 100 million GBP by 2016. Igloo currently posts an annual turnover of 35 million GBP.
In 2015, Bonnier entered the American children’s book market by founding the children’s book publisher Little Bee Books in New York. Until then, the Swedish media group was only present in the US through Weldon Ownen, a publisher of illustrated reference, lifestyle and cookbooks. The imprint is distributed by Simon & Schuster in the U.S. and Canada, and the first titles went on sale in January 2015 with a variety of board books, picture books, activity books, nonfiction, and novelty books for children up to the age of 12. The list is projected to increase to 150 books by the end of the year.
Bonnier Publishing launched Blink Publishing in the UK, which publishes primarily nonfiction for adults, and plans to start an adult literature imprint in 2015.
Nordic online retailer Adlibris Group ended the year with strong growth in all product segments and increased its website traffic. In the Finnish market, several initiatives led to a 50% increase in sales. Bookstore chain Pocket Shop also increased sales, and three new stores opened during the year. Several new spots are under consideration for the chain’s continued expansion.
Bonnier Publishing ships to 75% of the world’s countries. There are 440 employees in four countries: the U.K., Australia, France and the U.S. Sales amounted to 51 million GBP for 2014 and are projected at 87 million GBP for 2015. After four years of strategic positioning, Bonnier Publishing expanded in the English-speaking world (see “Acquisitions” above).
With rising sales of digital audiobooks and children’s books, there was a stronger focus on digital sales in fiscal 2014. In Sweden, 3,300 digital books are available.
Over several months, Bonnier Media Deutschland was in the media spotlight, as Amazon delayed shipping books from Bonnier authors due to renegotiation of their contracts with Amazon on e-book pricing. Amazon was formally accused of violating German competition laws by the German Publishers and Booksellers Association who have also asked the antitrust authorities to investigate. Bonnier and Amazon has since reached an agreement.
In December 2014, Bonnier reports that Swedish Bonnierförlagen could increase their efficiency by 30% by streamlining their contract, rights and royalty processes. “The return on investment so far, looking at how our processes have been improved, has been highly satisfactory. We estimate that the project as a whole has given an increase in efficiency of 30%,” Anders Vendelvik, IT manager at Bonnierförlagen explains.
The crime fiction trend in Scandinavia brought Lars Kepler’s Stalker to the top of bestseller lists in all categories. Bonnier’s German publications included Ullstein Buchverlage’s # 1 bestseller Darm mit Charme.