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PRH revenue down 1.4% in first half of 2020; Bertelsmann ‘interested’ in buying S&S

Bertelsmann, the parent company of Penguin Random House (PRH), has reported that the publisher’s global revenue fell 1.4% in the first half of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, to €1.63 billion (A$2.63b).

EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation) fell 7.9% over the same period, to €209 million (A$337.8m).

Ebook and audiobook sales—which were up 15% compared to the previous year—together with higher online sales, helped cushion that impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. PRH CEO Markus Dohle said PRH’s performance was due to its ‘ability to react quickly to changing market conditions’, including capturing more online sales as physical stores closed.

‘We never could’ve predicted a global pandemic, but we’ve been working toward a world in which online sales channels would have an even larger share of our overall book sales,’ Dohle said.

‘Across Penguin Random House, our year-end lists are very strong and most of our markets are now in recovery mode or even outperforming last year’s book sales. So I remain confident that with all of the above combined, we will deliver a very good 2020 and—even more importantly—that we will emerge from this crisis stronger than ever before.’

According to Publishers Weekly, the US was PRH’s best-performing international company, with sales up 5.2% for the half-year period, led by Delia Owens’ bestselling novel Where the Crawdads Sing, and nonfiction titles Untamed (Glennon Doyle), Becoming (Michelle Obama) and How to Be an Antiracist (Ibram X Kendi).

Bertelsmann’s total revenue in the first half of 2020 fell 8.9%, to €7.85 billion, largely due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on its advertising-financed businesses RTL Group and Gruner + Jahr.

Meanwhile, Bertelsmann CEO Thomas Rabe has told the Financial Times that Bertelsmann is interested in buying Simon & Schuster (S&S) from its parent company ViacomCBS.

‘We’ve been the most active player on the consolidation of the book publishing market in the last 10 years,’ Rabe said. ‘We combined Penguin and Random House very successfully to create by far the largest book publisher in the world, actually the only global book publisher. Given this position we would, of course, be interested in Simon & Schuster.’

As previously reported by Books+Publishing, ViacomCBS announced its intention to sell the publisher in March this year. The sale has since been held up by the Covid-19 pandemic, with ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish stating in May that S&S was ‘ready for divestiture when the market stabilises’.


Category: International news