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Canongate: 'frustrating' 2011 blamed on Assange
05.10.12 | Joshua Farrington
Canongate has described 2011 as a "mixed and ultimately frustrating year", with the company posting an operating loss that it blamed on Julian Assange. Nevertheless, thanks to the sale of Text Publishing in Australia, Canongate ended the year in the black, and with an improved cash pile. The company also noted that its e-book sales grew 200%.
Canongate's turnover in 2011 was £10.8m, a decline of around 19% on 2010's turnover of £13.4m. It reported an operating loss of £406,633, though including the profit returned by trading at Text, this reduced to £368,467. Last year the company reported an operating profit of £1.1m. Pretax profits were boosted by the sale of Text, leading to a profit of £319,348. This was down 70% from £1.06m in 2010.
The failure of the Wikileaks founder to deliver a book as promised was credited for the poor performance in the bottom line. Chairman Sir Christopher Bland said the loss "was largely attributable to Julian Assange's failure to deliver the book he had contracted to produce, and we were unable to obtain repayment from him of Canongate's substantial advance, which had to be written off".
Canongate published Julian Assange: The Unauthorised Autobiography in September 2011, after Assange backed out of publication of an authorised work, declaring "All memoir is prostitution". The publisher said on release: "It fulfils the promise of the original proposal and we are proud to publish it."
In his review of the year Canongate managing director Jamie Byng said: "2011 was a mixed and ultimately frustrating year, a reminder of the highly unpredictable nature of the publishing business. We published some very good books and some with great success and yet we ended up losing a significant amount of money on one title that resulted in the performance of the company as a whole being the worst in many years."
He picked out Karl Pilkington's An Idiot Abroad and Matt Haig's The Radleys as high-profile successes, with digital also performing well, as e-book sales soared by almost 200%.
The company sold its majority stake in Text Publishing in Australia to Tony and Maureen Wheeler, selling its 70% share and moving Australian and New Zealand distribution to Allen and Unwin. The sale netted Canongate £662,142.
Bland commented: "The outlook for publishing in the digital age is both exciting and uncertain. Canongate's healthy financial position should enable it to weather any further downturn in the market, while continuing to take advantage of publishing opportunities as they occur." The company ended the year with cash in the bank of £1.7m.