London-based Quarto Group's 7% sales increase in 2004, to £79.8 million ($146 million), was driven largely by its three acquisitions in the year, which contributed $12.3 million to the company's top line. Earnings in the year rose 17.4%, to £2.7 million ($5 million). The company's largest purchase was Minnesota-based Creative Publishing. for which Quarto paid $10.3 million and assumed $9.2 million in debt. Creative had sales of $18.3 million in 2003 (News, July 19). Other deals included the purchase of the London publisher Aurum Press and the Australian display marketer Lifetime Distributors.

In comments on its U.S. publishing operations, Quarto said its Rockport Group beat expectations, led by its Fair Winds Press imprint, which specializes in cooking, fitness and alternative health. Quarto's art instruction imprint, Walter Foster, had a "slightly disappointing" year, which it attributed to a slowdown in buying by Michaels, the dominant arts and crafts chain in the U.S. Sales were better at Quarto's promotional publisher, Book Sales, and operating margins topped 10%.

Following Quarto's mini-acquisition spree in 2004, Quarto chairman Laurence Orbach told shareholders the company will continue to explore acquisitions "in a measured way" this year. Overall, Orbach said, Quarto "expects another year of growth in 2005."