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Hachette UK sales drop 4.5% in fourth quarter

Hachette parent company Lagardere has reported a 5.9% fall for net sales in its Publishing division in 2011 to €2.03bn (£1.68bn), with a 4.5% drop in UK revenue in the fourth quarter compared to the same period in 2010. E-books accounted for 6% of the publishing division's total net sales in 2011.

Across the group, net sales were reported down to €7.6bn (£6.3bn) to the end of 2011, a 3.9% drop. In the fourth quarter, the three months to end December 2011, net sales across the group were down a reported 9.1% to €1.9bn (£1.6bn), with publishing sales down to €537m (£446m) on the fourth quarter of 2010, a drop of 3.4%.

In the statement on its publishing division, the Paris-based company said the "unfavourable base effect of Stephenie Meyer sales” had vanished by the year end.

Lagardere said in English-speaking countries the year was dominated by "the rise of the e-book and problems for a number of distributors", citing the bankruptcy of Borders in the US and Red Group in Australia.

It attributed the 4.5% drop in UK publishing sales, to the "tougher international market conditions", and said the "solid performances in the Adult trade (thanks in large part to Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs)" did not offset this. Bestselling titles for Hachette UK in 2011 also included One Day by David Nicholls (Hodder), The Litigators by John Grisham, 11.22.63 by Stephen King (Hodder) and The Drop and The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly (Orion). Prize success came with Pure by Andrew Miller (Sceptre) winning the Costa Book of the Year, and The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht (Orion) taking the Orange Prize.

E-book growth continued in the fourth quarter for the group, with e-book sales accounting for 20% of adult trade in the US and 10% in the UK at the end of December 2011. Separately, Hachette UK said sales of its e-books were in excess of £21m in 2011, up nearly 500% on 2010, and it put its market share of e-book sales at approximately 20%. 

Across the full year 2011, e-books made up 6% of Lagardere Publishing's total net sales, but it reported that new e-readers launched in the autumn in France have not yet "triggered a breakthrough in the market".

Its fourth quarter statement reported general literature sales in France were down by 7.7% for the period, with "solid performances" by its Distribution and Larousse companies, up by 2.4% and 2.6% respectively. Sales were up in the US by 12.8%, with titles such as The Best of Me by Nicolas Sparks and Seriously . . . I'm Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres contributing strong sales despite problems with distribution caused by the Borders bankruptcy.

Across the full-year to end of 2011, net sales for Lagardere's Services and Unlimited divisions were up 4% and 14.5% respectively, to €3.7bn (£3.1bn) and €454m (£377m), with its Active division down by 21% to €1.4bn (£1.2bn).

The group will release its full-year results on 8th March.