New Penguin Random House c.e.o. Markus Dohle has spoken of the "societal impact" made by the books the company publishes, telling his staff they are "united by a greater purpose", as Bertelsmann announced its first-half results for 2013.
Ahead of the merger with Penguin on 1st July, Random House notched up a mid-year record profit for the first half of 2013, boosted by Dan Brown's Inferno selling more than 4m copies in all formats across English–language territories. Overall revenues were €915m (£781m), down 3% from €947m (£808m) last year, when figures were enhanced by EL James' Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. However operating earnings before interest and tax stood at €117m (£100m) for the first six months of 2013, up 4% from €113 (£96m) in the first half of 2012.
Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In, Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, and R J Palacio's Wonder were also highlights, alongside the Random House English, German and Spanish-language versions of the E L James trilogy, which saw over five million print audio and e-books sold in the half-year. In the UK, the Random House Group "notably increased" its share of titles on the Sunday Times bestseller lists, Bertelsmann noted, while Germany's Verlagsgruppe Random House was said to have had an "outstanding" first half-year, with strong growth in e-books and digital now accounting for over 10% of its revenues.
In a letter to staff announcing the half-year results, Dohle commented: "Since July 1st, I have had the privilege to meet with more than 8,000 of our colleagues around the world, getting to know the heart of our new company: you. Each of our Penguin Random House companies faces distinct opportunities and challenges, but the way all of you approach your work is the same: with a commitment fuelled by a genuine love for what you do. In my conversations at every location—from Kirkwood to Frating, Toronto to New Delhi—the depth of dedication you have shown for our books and for our company has been truly inspiring. We are united by a greater purpose: the societal impact we as a team make every day by putting the very best books in the hands of readers around the world."
Dohle said the new company was "building upon our excellent performances pre-merger", telling staff: "Our financial achievements are a reflection of the excellence you bring to what you love doing as members of our publishing family. Whether by publishing award-winning authors and the books that people just can't stop talking about, or through innovating in digital and enhancing print capabilities, we are implementing our vision to shape and redefine the reading experience."
He picked out successes from across Penguin Random House in its first weeks as a united company, including Reza Aslan's Zealot in the US, "sales breakthroughs" for John Williams' Stoner and Terry Hayes' I Am Pilgrim in the UK, and Sylvia Day's Entwined with You topping The Bookseller's first e-book ranking, as well as prize wins for George Megalogenis and John van de Ruit in Australia and South Africa, and the publication of the first enhanced e-book from Random House India.
Dohle added: "We can all take pride in what we have accomplished—both culturally and commercially—in the last eight months pre-merger, and in the last eight weeks as a new company. As we begin this ever-important fall and holiday publishing and selling season, let's further deepen our collaboration and shared sense of purpose as we make the most of our fantastic lineup of books worldwide. I thank you for the support you have given to our authors, to one another, and to me in our first months together. We began 2013 very well as the world's two leading trade book publishers. With your commitment and creativity, let's finish the year even stronger as a united Penguin Random House."
Bertelsmann also saw record earnings before interest and tax in the first half of 2013, posting results of €768m (£655m), up from €730m (£623m) in the first half of last year. However, overall revenues dropped by 1.9% to €7.34bn (£6.26bn), down from €7.57bn (£6.46bn) in the first half of 2012.
Thomas Rabe, chairman & c.e.o. of Bertelsmann, said: "The first six months of this year went well for Bertelsmann. Our operating profit reached record levels, and our return on sales was in the double digits, clearly demonstrating that Bertelsmann is reshaping the Group from a position of strength. We have made good progress on our four strategic priorities – strengthening the core, digital transformation, building growth platforms, and expanding our activities in growth regions."
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