An updated version of this article based on more recent data is available here.
The growing complexity of international book publishing is reflected in this year’s ranking of the world’s largest publishers. While Pearson once again maintained its top spot as the world’s biggest publisher, currency fluctuations, consolidations, the digital transition, and the emergence of China all played a part in altering the makeup of the companies that hit the Livres Hebdo/Publishers Weekly annual global ranking.
(Scroll down to see the full list)
Two Chinese publishers made the top 10 list for 2014; it’s possible they would have hit the list earlier if information had been available. Phoenix Publishing and Media Company is the sixth largest publisher on the ranking this year, with sales of $2.84 billion, an increase of 16% over 2013, while China South Publishing & Media Group is in the seventh spot with revenue of $2.58 billion, an increase of 31%. In all, four Chinese publishers qualified for the ranking in 2014, by virtue of meeting the requirement of having $200 million in sales as well being willing and able to document their figures.
The greater financial transparency by China’s publishing giants is in keeping with their goal of becoming a much more important factor in the international publishing scene. As part of that objective, China mounted a massive presence at this year’s BookExpo America, which included a 25,000-sq.-ft. exhibit space and had more than 500 publishing executives and authors in attendance. In addition to the massive exhibit, China’s publishing executives took part in a number of panels; one of those executives was Phoenix president Xiaoping Wu. In his remarks, he noted that Phoenix’s $80 million purchase in summer 2014 of the children’s publishing unit of Publications International Ltd. (PIL), based in Lincolnwood, Ill., was just one step in setting up children’s publishing operations around the world.
Previous international efforts by Phoenix included an agreement with Hachette Livre in 2009 and the opening of a U.K. office in 2012. The company recently opened an investment holding company in New York.
While Phoenix Publishing and China South shook up the top 10 ranking for 2014, the top four publishers are all familiar names (although Reed Elsevier has rebranded itself as Relx Group) and specialize in the education and professional markets. The ability of professional and educational publishers to remain so large is due to a combination of acquisitions and their expansion of the digital delivery of information, the revenue of which is included in compiling the ranking. Revenue from the top 10 publishers combined accounted for 54% of all revenue generated by the 57 companies on the list, up from 53% in 2013.
Penguin Random House remained the world’s largest trade publisher last year. Sales rose 25% over 2013, to more than $4 billion, due primarily to the Penguin merger (completed July 1, 2013) and the purchase of Santillana Ediciones Generales (completed July 1, 2014). (The 2013 results do not include sales for Penguin for the first six months of that year.)
Acquisitions will certainly have impact on the ranking next year. HarperCollins’s Aug. 1, 2014, purchase of Harlequin is not included in the most recent ranking, since HC’s revenue is from the fiscal year ended June 30, 2014. Harlequin, which was #42 in 2013, is excluded in the most recent ranking since it became part of HC last year. Harlequin will add as much as $400 million to HC’s $1.43 billion in revenue in fiscal 2014. Scholastic’s sale of its educational publishing technology group to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in April will bring those two U.S.-based companies closer together in terms of revenue. The technology group had sales of $249 million in Scholastic’s fiscal year ended May 31, 2014, when the company had total revenue of $1.82 billion; HMH’s sales in 2014 were just about flat with 2013, at $1.37 billion.
The biggest deal affecting players in the ranking, however, was the merger of Macmillan Science and Education with Springer Science and Business Media. This merger, which was completed in May 2015, created a new company, called Springer Nature, which is 53% controlled by Holtzbrinck (parent company of the former Macmillan Science and Education). Macmillan’s trade and U.S. college publishing divisions were not included in the merger. Another deal combining companies in the ranking involved two of Brazil’s largest publishers and was announced this June when Abril Educacao agreed to buy Editora Saraiva, the publishing divisions of Saraiva Group. The deal involves all of Saraiva’s school business, as well as all its publishing imprints, including the Benvirá trade unit. Saraiva’s retail business, however, is not being sold.
One final factor that effected the ranking in 2014 was the most volatile currency market in recent years. To maintain consistency, all currency conversions were based at exchange rates at the end of each year. If conversions had been done based on rates earlier in 2014, some companies would have been ranked one position higher, including Relx, Hachette Livre, and Simon & Schuster.
|Rank 2015||Rank 2014||Publishing Group or Division||Parent Company||Parent Country||2014 Revenue in $M||2013 Revenue in $M|
|2||3||ThomsonReuters||The Woodbridge Company Ltd.||Canada||$5,760||$5,576|
|3||2||RELX Group||Reed Elsevier PLC & Reed Elsevier NV||UK/NL/US||$5,362||$6,093|
|4||4||Wolters Kluwer||Wolters Kluwer||NL||$4,455||$4,920|
|5||5||Penguin Random House||Bertelsmann AG||Germany||$4,046||$3,664*|
|6||NEW||Phoenix Publishing and Media Company||Phoenix Publishing and Media Company||China||$2,840||$2,781|
|7||NEW||China South Publishing & Media Group Co., Ltd||China South Publishing & Media Group Co., Ltd||China||$2,579||$2,237|
|9||10||McGraw-Hill Education||Apollo Global Management LLC||US||$2,190 (Est.)||$1,992|
|10||7||Holtzbrinck||Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck||Germany||$2,000||$2,222|
|11||8||Grupo Planeta||Grupo Planeta||Spain||$1,943||$2,161|
|14||9||Cengage Learning Holdings II LP||Apax and Omers Capital Partners||US/Canada||$1,708||$1,747|
|15||14||China Publishing Group Corporation||China Publishing Group Corporation||China||$1,495||$1,499|
|16||16||Harper Collins||News Corp.||US||$1,434||$1,369|
|17||15||Houghton Mifflin Harcourt||Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Company||US/Cayman Islands||$1,372||$1,379|
|18||13||De Agostini Editore||Gruppo De Agostini||Italy||$1,367||N/A|
|19||18||Oxford University Press||Oxford University||UK||$1,181||$1,254|
|20||17||Springer Science and Business Media||EQT and GIC Investors;||Sweden, Singapore||$1,167||$1,301|
|21||21||China Education Publishing & Media Holdings Co. Ltd.||China Education Publishing & Media Holdings Co. Ltd.||China||$1,108||$1,152|
|24||22||Kodansha Ltd.||Kodansha Ltd.||Japan||$997||$1,143|
|25||23||Egmont Group||Egmont International Holding A/S||Denmark||$896||$1,101|
|27||26||Bonnier||The Bonnier Group||Sweden||$836||$976|
|28||24||Grupo Santillana||PRISA SA||Spain||$793||$1,020|
|29||27||Kadokawa Publishing||Kadokawa Holdings Inc.||Japan||$793||$900|
|30||28||Simon & Schuster||CBS||US||$778||$809|
|31||30||Woongjin ThinkBig||Woongjin Holding||Korea||$577||$616|
|34||32||Les Editions Lefebvre-Sarrut||Frojal||France||$482||$559|
|35||34||Messagerie / GeMS||Messagerie Italiane||Italy||$460||$543|
|36||35||Media Participations||Media Participations||Belgium||$426||$481|
|37||36||Mondadori||The Mondadori Group||Italy||$410||$462|
|38||39||Cambridge University Press||Cambridge University Press||UK||$409||$433|
|39||38||The Perseus Book Group||The Perseus Book Group||USA||$400||N/A|
|40||NEW||France Loisirs||ACTISSIA SAS||France||$364|
|40||41||Westermann Verlagsgruppe||Medien Union||Germany||$364||$401|
|44||43||Kyowon Co. Ltd.||Kyowon Co. Ltd.||Korea||$312||$353|
|45||46||La Martinière||La Martinière||France||$292||$329|
|46||48||Haufe Gruppe||Privately owned||Germany||$285||$315|
|48||44||RCS Libri||RCS Media Group||Italy||$271||$348|
|49||50||Gakken Co. Ltd.||Gakken Co. Ltd.||Japan||$257||$297|
|50||51||Bungeishunju Ltd.||Bungeishunju Ltd.||Japan||$216||$253|
|51||49||OLMA Media Group||Privately owned||Cyprus||$213||$306|
|53||54||Groupe Albin Michel||Groupe Albin Michel||France||$204||$232|
|55||NEW||Editora FTD||Editora FTD||Brazil||$198||$199|
|56||55||Abril Educação||Abril group||Brazil||$196||$216|
|57||52||Shinchosha Publishing Co, Ltd.||Shinchosa Publishing Co, Ltd.||Japan||$176||N/A|
|Not ranked||Harlequin||Torstar Corp.||Canada||$343||$374|
* 2013 Revenue figure is for Random House, before its merger with Penguin