Hachette Book Group USA had a sharp turnaround in the fourth quarter, with sales rising 12.8 percent (after falling 8 percent in the prior quarter), riding a “powerful performance” and an easier comparison to a year ago, when Stephenie Meyer sales had declined. But Hachette UK continues to struggle, down 4.5 percent for the fourth quarter (after falling 10 percent in the third quarter). The company blamed “tougher international market conditions (REDgroup’s bankruptcy in Australia),” even with UK rights to the Steve Jobs biography. Lagardere’s publishing division reported overall fourth quarter sales of 537 million euros, down 3.4 percent overall and 3.8 percent on a like-for-like basis versus 556 million euros a year ago (and 580 million euros two years ago).
Company revenues were down for the second fiscal year in a row, though the declines improved over the course of the year. They finished with sales of 2.038 million euros, down 5.9 percent overall and 4.4 percent on a like-for-like basis compared to 2.165 million euros a year ago. The division peaked in 2009 on the strength of Meyer, at 2.273 billion euros. (Sales are also behind 2008’s 2.13 billion euros, but ahead of their 1.975 billion euros in 2007.)
US digital sales ebbed during the course of the year, with ebooks comprising 20 percent of fourth quarter *adult trade* sales (the first time the company has used this more limited description), as they continued to nudge up in the UK, comprising 10 percent of adult trade sales. Total digital sales, including downloadable audio, comprised 22 percent of US sales for the year, according to a separate advisory. New devices in France still “have not triggered a breakthrough in the market yet.” For the full-year, ebooks comprised 6 percent of worldwide sales, or 122 million euros.
Companywide, however, Lagardere told investors they are facing impairment writedowns of up to 900 million euros, due to “the weak environment in global economy and in stock markets on the one hand, and the performances and prospects” of their sports division. They also took losses on shares in Canal + France. The company’s stock is down almost 6 percent on the writedown news.