Hachette UK hails 'strong' first half as Lagardère begins to recover

Hachette UK hails 'strong' first half as Lagardère begins to recover

Hachette UK has celebrated “an extremely strong" first half as parent company Lagardère showed a path to recovery in the six months to end of June 2021, with its publishing arm recording some decade-high results. 

In the UK, a 17.3% jump in revenue was “driven by front and backlist success in the Adult Trade segment, as well as by Youth Works,” the group said. Exact figures for Hachette UK were not broken out, but c.e.o. David Shelley was enthusiastic about its performances. “Hachette UK had an extremely strong first half, with double digit revenue growth and market share of 13%, up from 12.5% in the same period in 2020,” he said. 

“We had 205 appearances in the Sunday Times’ Bestsellers List, an increase on the same period last year.” He cited strong performning titles such as Sooley by John Grisham (Hodder & Stoughton), Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (Orion Children’s Books), How To Do The Work by Nicole LePera (Orion Spring), Simply Raymond by Raymond Blanc (Headline), Bridgerton: The Duke and I by Julia Quinn (Piatkus) and American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (Tinder Press). Other big books included The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (Dialogue Books), Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers (Weidenfeld & Nicolson), A Song for the Dark Times by Ian Rankin (Orion Books) as well as Twochubbycubs Fast and Filling by James Anderson and Paul Anderson (Yellow Kite) and The Fast 800 Easy by Dr Clare Bailey and Justine Pattinson (Short Books).  

Shelley emphasised Hachette UK’s diversification of marketing and publishing. “As part of our mission to reach more readers, we’re starting to create more ways for them to discover our books. From our Feminist Book Box monthly subscription service, to our BookDrop email blast highlighting the best e-book deals, to special editions released by our music imprint White Rabbit (Orion), we’re engaging with audiences in new ways with content tailored to their interests.” 

The company is also focusing on diversity and accessability. “2021 also sees us mark the fifth anniversary of Changing the Story and we’ve accelerated our drive to make our business more transparent and accessible to people from under-represented groups,” Shelley said. “Our focus on transparency includes measurement, with a census of both our authors and our employees taking place in the first half to benchmark where we are today and how far we still have to go before we’re truly representative of the readers we serve." 

The results were published days after the Lagardère group denied any wrongdoing after a report published in French daily newspaper Le Monde said that France’s National Financial Prosecutor has opened a judicial inquiry against the group for financial irregularities during its recent shareholder battle. According to Le Monde, issues being investigated include buying of votes and inaccurate accounts. 

In its report of its half year results, Lagardère reported group revenue of €2bn, up 5% on a like-for-like basis. The group said the results represented “a path to recovery despite an uncertain Covid context”, improving profitability and cash generation. Last November the group saw year-on-year revenue decline of 38.3%.

Group recurring EBIT in the first half of the year totalled €2m, a steep rise of €221m compared to a negative €218m in first-half of 2020. Lagardère Publishing recorded decade-high recurring EBIT of €110m, compared to €27m in 2020. Publishing growth was attributed to “brisk business momentum, a still-high proportion of e-commerce sales and a favourable format mix,” the company said. “The division is also pressing ahead with the cost cutting measures initially deployed in 2020.” However Lagardère Travel Retail reported recurring EBIT of -€96m, versus -€209m in the first-half of 2020. 

First-half 2021 revenue for the publishing arm totalled €1.1bn for the division, up 16.4% as reported and up 18.7% like-for-like. “The difference between reported and like-for-like data is attributable to an €8m positive scope effect linked to the acquisitions of Le Livre Scolaire and Laurence King Publishing, and to a €30m negative currency impact resulting chiefly from the depreciation of the US dollar,” the report said. “After recording robust like-for-like growth of 13.9% in the first quarter of 2021, growth surged by 22.9% in the second quarter compared to the same prior-year period, against a favourable comparison basis.”