Bonnier Publishing is restructuring its business in Australia "in response to changing market conditions". As a result, it is closing its local children's publishing arm and all but one of its 36 staff are now entering into redundancy consultations.
The company said it "remained committed" to its Australian adult non-fiction and fiction programmes, but its Echo Publishing adult lists were going to be consolidated under its Bonnier Zaffre UK division.
The firm is also completely disposing of its local children's publishing programme, despite being one of Australia's largest children’s licensing publishers according to Bonnier Publishing. Part of the company’s local children’s publishing programme, under imprint Five Mile, is to be acquired by Australian independent children's publisher Hardie Grant Egmont. Rights for the remaining Five Mile titles will be reverted to authors, illustrators and licensors.
In total Bonnier Publishing Australia has 36 employees at its office on Church Street in Richmond. All staff, except for Echo Publishing commissioning editor Angela Meyer, will now enter into redundancy consultation, although the company expects a small number of employees to transfer to Hardie Grant Egmont.
The move to "simplify" the business was taken in recognition of the fact the Australian market has become "increasingly challenging" and was not a "direct consequence" of Bonnier Publishing's "profitability problems" revealed in the parent company's latest accounts, a spokesperson for the publisher said. Ahead of former chief executive Richard Johnson's departure, it was revealed earlier this year that operating profit (EBITDA) at parent company Bonnier Books had almost halved in 2017.
Instead Bonnier Publishing pointed to challenges in the Australian market, which it said had left its Australian business unable to turn a profit. The most recent Publishers Association country report shows a decline in both the volume and value sales in Australia's retail print book market, with sales faling from 56.4m copies to 53.6m copies from 2015 to 2016 and dropping in value from AUS $979m to $968.3m.
Bonnier Publishing has said it will honour all rights and obligations as outlined in its author and illustrator agreements under the Echo Publishing imprint and the company will work with all partners to ensure "the smoothest possible transition" for author, illustrator and licensor agreements under the Five Mile children’s imprint.
Julian Shaw, group commercial director for Bonnier Publishing, said: "This was a tough decision and not one that was taken lightly and while Australia remains an important market for us, it has become an increasingly challenging one and therefore it is necessary to ensure the wider group remains competitive and ready for further growth.
"Tash and her team have shown tremendous commitment and passion in the way they have transformed our publishing in Australia over the past couple of years for which we are incredibly grateful."
He added: “With our parent company, Bonnier Books, having a strong relationship with Egmont in Norway, we are confident that the talented authors and illustrators transitioning to Hardie Grant Egmont will be in very capable hands.
“We look forward to continuing to acquire under Echo Publishing following its transition to Bonnier Zaffre and maximising the global opportunities for Australian writers."
Tash Besliev, c.e.o. Bonnier Publishing Australia, said: “We are immensely proud of the books we have published and are honoured to have worked with so many talented Australian authors, illustrators and licensors over the past two years. I’m personally very grateful to the incredible team at Bonnier Publishing Australia – true experts in the field of publishing, selling and marketing books. Our dedication to publishing for Australian families, a group most publishing overlooks, is something I will always be proud to have been a part of.”