Pearson maintained its place as the world’s largest book publisher in 2015, but that doesn’t mean the U.K.-based company didn’t face its share of challenges. The company began a major restructuring effort in the year that included the sale of the Financial Times and its stake in the Economist. Pearson also announced in January 2016 that it will cut about 4,000 jobs from its worldwide educational publishing operation, in an attempt to “create a single global product organization.” Pearson embarked on the overhaul to adapt to changes in the educational marketplace. Those changes were a major factor in total revenue at the company falling from over $7 billion in 2014 to $6.6 billion last year.
(Scroll down to see the full global ranking chart.)
The five largest publishers in 2014 retained their positions in 2015 on the Livres Hebdo/Publishers Weekly ranking, but that stability masked some notable shifts that took place among the global giants. For one thing, Pearson was not the only publisher that saw revenue fall between 2014 and 2015. In fact, more than half of the companies on the global ranking had a decline in sales last year. Among the factors for the revenue drop were weak economies in some countries, disruptions caused by the increased use of e-books and other digital content, and currency fluctuations.
Like Pearson, many publishers took aggressive steps in reaction to the changed market conditions. One of the biggest deals in 2015 was the merger of the Holtzbrinck-owned Macmillan Science and Education companies (excluding Macmillan’s U.S. higher education and trade properties) with Springer Science + Business. The merger was completed in May 2015, with Holtzbrinck holding a 53% stake in the combined company, which was renamed Springer Nature. The deal had a direct impact on the global ranking. With the shift of revenue from its professional and education business to the new entity, Holtzbrinck’s sales fell to $1.2 billion in 2015, dropping the company from 10th place on the 2014 list to #19 last year. The new Springer Nature was the 15th largest publisher in 2015 (Springer Science + Business Media was the 20th largest in 2014).
Two acquisitions that took place in 2016 had the effect of knocking the acquired company out of the 2015 global list. The Perseus Books Group, which was #39 on the ranking in 2014, with revenue of about $400 million, was broken up and sold in two transactions earlier this year. The Hachette Book Group USA, owned by French conglomerate Lagadere, bought the publishing arm of Perseus, while the Ingram Content Group bought Perseus’s distribution units. HBG took ownership of the publishing group, which had 2015 sales of approximately $100 million, this spring, but its revenue was not included as part of Lagardere’s Hachette Livre publishing subsidiary last year. Hachette Livre was the ninth largest global publisher in 2015, the same position it held in 2014. (With sales of just over $400 million, Perseus would have been in 37th place in 2015.)
In Italy, Mondadori’s bid to buy RCS Libri, the book group of RCS Media, began in 2015 and was approved by government authorities this year. Although the government forced Mondadori to divest some minor properties, the RCS purchase will boost the company’s 2016 book sales. Its revenue in 2015 fell to $350 million, from $410 million in 2014. Mondadori was in 39th place on the 2015 ranking, down two spots from 2014.
Because the 2015 list was compiled later in the year than previous global rankings, it includes revenue from a number of publishers that operate on a fiscal year. One such company is HarperCollins, whose fiscal year ended June 30, 2016. After a big jump in revenue in fiscal 2015 that reflected HC’s purchase of Harlequin in August 2014, its revenue slipped slightly in fiscal 2016 to $1.65 billion. Still, the boost it received from the Harlequin purchase was enough lift HC into the 13th spot on the 2015 ranking, up from 18th in 2014.
Two other American companies whose fiscal 2016 revenues are included in the ranking are Scholastic and John Wiley. Although Wiley’s revenue fell in fiscal 2016 compared to fiscal 2015, it edged out Scholastic for 11th place on the 2015 ranking.
The largest U.S-based publisher on the 2015 list is McGraw-Hill Education, which is undergoing its own financial repositioning. When the company was taken private by Apollo Global Management in 2013, the new owners divided the K–12 business from the higher education/professional/international businesses for reporting purposes, and the K–12 financials were not always publicly available. But in 2016, as it prepares for a public offering, Apollo has released a proxy statement that includes both companies. The new filing shows that MHE had a small decline in revenue in 2015, but it remained the world’s ninth largest publisher.
One new company was added to the ranking this year: China’s Zhejiang Publishing United Group entered the list at #18, with revenue of $1.36 billion in 2015. The addition of Zhejiang brings to five the number of Chinese publishers that are included in the ranking. Chinese publishers began to be included on the list in 2014 when they started to provide verifiable financials.
The currency fluctuations had the biggest impact on Brazilian publishers. Although Abril Educacao, ranked 56th in 2014, with revenue of $196 million, acquired 54th-ranked Saraiva (2014 sales of $199 million), the dramatic slide in the Brazilian real plus severe economic problems prevented any publisher from the country from qualifying for the ranking with the necessary level of sales.
Penguin Random House, with worldwide revenue of more than $4 billion, was, once again, the only purely trade publisher to be among the world’s 10 largest publishers (Hachette Livre holdings combine trade and educational publishers). The balance of the top 10 publishers was composed of educational and professional publishers.
|Rank 2016||Rank 2015||Publishing Group or Division||Parent Company||Parent Country||2015 Revenue in $M||2014 Revenue in $M|
|2||2||ThomsonReuters||The Woodbridge Company Ltd.||Canada||$5,776||$5,760|
|3||3||RELX Group||Reed Elsevier PLC & Reed Elsevier NV||UK/NL/US||$5,209||$5,362|
|4||4||Wolters Kluwer||Wolters Kluwer||NL||$4,592||$4,455|
|5||5||Penguin Random House||Bertelsmann AG||Germany||$4,056||$4,046|
|6||7||China South Publishing & Media Group Co., Ltd||China South Publishing & Media Group Co., Ltd||$2,811||$2,579|
|7||6||Phoenix Publishing and Media Company||Phoenix Publishing and Media Company||China||$2,755||$2,840|
|9||9||McGraw-Hill Education||Apollo Global Management LLC||US||$1,835||$1,855|
|10||11||Grupo Planeta||Grupo Planeta||Spain||$1,809||$1,943|
|14||14||Cengage Learning Holdings II LP||Apax and Omers Capital Partners||US/Canada||$1,633||$1,708|
|15||20||Springer Nature||Holtzbrinck & EQT and GIC Investors||Germany, Sweden, Singapore||$1,605||$1,167|
|16||16||Houghton Mifflin Harcourt||Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Company||US/Cayman Islands||$1,416||$1,372|
|17||15||China Publishing Group Corporation||China Publishing Group Corporation||China||$1,402||$1,495|
|18||NEW||Zhejiang Publishing United Group||Zhejiang Publishing United Group||China||$1,364||-|
|19||10||Holtzbrinck||Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck||Germany||$1,231||$2,000|
|20||21||China Education Publishing & Media||China Education Publishing & Media Holdings Co. Ltd.||China||$1,154||$1,108|
|21||19||Oxford University Press||Oxford University||UK||$1,137||$1,181|
|24||29||Kadokawa Publishing||Kadokawa Holdings Inc.||Japan||$1,009||$793|
|25||24||Kodansha Ltd.||Kodansha Ltd.||Japan||$969||$997|
|27||27||Bonnier||The Bonnier Group||Sweden||$827||$836|
|28||25||Egmont Group||Egmont International Holding A/S||Denmark||$786||$896|
|29||30||Simon & Schuster||CBS||US||$780||$778|
|30||28||Grupo Santillana||PRISA SA||Spain||$702||$793|
|31||31||Woongjin ThinkBig||Woongjin Holding||Korea||$552||$577|
|33||35||Messagerie / GeMS||Messagerie Italiane||Italy||$502||$460|
|34||18||De Agostini Editore*||Gruppo De Agostini||Italy||$483||$1,367|
|36||34||Les Editions Lefebvre-Sarrut||Frojal||France||$432||$482|
|37||38||Cambridge University Press||Cambridge University Press||UK||$399||$409|
|38||36||Media Participations||Media Participations||Belgium||$371||$426|
|39||37||Mondadori Libri||The Mondadori Group||Italy||$350||$410|
|40||40||Westermann Verlagsgruppe||Medien Union||Germany||$327||$364|
|43||46||Haufe Gruppe||Privately owned||Germany||$279||$285|
|44||44||Kyowon Co. Ltd.||Kyowon Co. Ltd.||Korea||$277||$312|
|46||45||La Martinière Groupe||La Martinière Groupe||France||$246||$292|
|47||49||Gakken Co. Ltd.||Gakken Co. Ltd.||Japan||$239||$257|
|49||51||OLMA Media Group||Privately owned||Cyprus||-||$213|
|50||50||Bungeishunju Ltd.||Bungeishunju Ltd.||Japan||$201||$216|
|51||53||Groupe Albin Michel||Groupe Albin Michel||France||$194||$204|
|52||57||Shinchosha Publishing Co, Ltd.||Shinchosa Publishing Co, Ltd.||Japan||$182||$176|
* The 2015 sales figure for De Agostini reflects sales of books and partworks only; it excludes all other revenue.
Source: Livres Hebdo
Note: 2015 figures are based on sales generated in calendar year 2015, or, for companies that report based on fiscal years, in fiscal 2016. Companies must have sales of at least $175 million to be included. Data are from publicly available sources or from individual companies and include sales of books, journals, professional information, and digital products. Pannini and Disney are excluded from the ranking because they don’t report separate data for their publishing divisions. The listing was compiled by international publishing consultant Ruediger Wischenbart under the aegis of Livres Hebdo.