Led by a 13% increase in operating profits, to C$51 million, at its North American operations, Harlequin posted total operating earnings of C$87.6 million in 1998, an increase of 8%. Total revenues rose 7.2% to C$525.2 million.

According to parent company Torstar, the North American profit increase was driven by improved retail sales due in part to a number of bestsellers from Harlequin's Mira imprint. Direct-marketing profits were also up in North America, aided by higher cover prices and lower promotion costs.

Overseas earnings were flat in the year, although operations in Japan, Australia, Spain and Latin America reported gains. Torstar said that the 1999 outlook for Harlequin is mixed, with favorable North American retail sales trends and improved overseas profits offset in part by slower results in its North American direct-marketing efforts.

Sales at Torstar's supplementary education group, excluding results from Troll Communications, rose 20% to C$163.5 million, while operating profits increased 92% to C$13.6 million. The company attributed the profit improvement to acquisitions made in the year as well as to significant growth at its Tom Snyder and direct-to-home businesses. Revenues in the direct-to-home unit hit C$18 million, and the division was profitable a year ahead of schedule. Continued growth in the business is expected in 1999.

Torstar reported that revenues for the entire company rose 9% to C$1.33 billion. In 1998, Torstar had a net loss of C$5.1 million, compared to 1997's net income of C$260.2 million. The loss was attributed to costs associated with the sale of Troll as well as Torstar's takeover bid for Sun Media.