Lonely Planet saw turnover marginally decrease in the Euope, Middle East and Africa territories in 2013 but its profit rose by 17.6% to £663,000.
The results, which cover the period Lonely Planet was still owned by BBC Worldwide before it was sold to the NC2 company last April, have revealed that turnover decreased by 1.3% year-on-year to £15.26m in the year to 31st March 2013. However, profit for that year rose by 17.6% from £564,000 to £663,000.
In accounts filed at Companies House, Lonely Planet said: “Over the last year, the company’s key markets have started to stabilise and we have seen this reflected in only a small decline in the revenues. The company continued its transition from a traditional print publishing business to a more broad based media company delivering travel content through a number of different channels.”
Lonely Planet's UK market share in guide books continued to grow in 2013 and a broader range of digital distribution channels led to “strong growth” in digital products, Lonely Planet said. “Tight control of our operating expenditure has led to a growth in our margins with our profit before tax growing from 5.17% in the prior year to 5.75% in the current year.” The publisher intends to continue to invest in new products, which will help it to “secure a greater presence within stores as well as strengthening the Lonely Planet brand throughout Europe, Middle East and Africa,” it said.
The business’ “key concern” going forward was to ensure its products reach the market and were not “too exposed” to the financial problems that may hit its customers. “Even though our markets have stabilised, they remain fragile and vulnerable to further economic shocks,” the company said. “Both debt and unemployment levels remain high and in certain territories, the demise of a number of distributors makes it difficult to comprehensively distribute our products in these markets.”
The financial accounts revealed a large proportion of the company’s business is done in the UK and Ireland, with turnover in those territories notching up at £8.9m in comparison to the rest of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, where turnover declined sharply by 13.6% to £6.3m from £7.3m a year earlier.
In November a BBC Trust report criticised BBC Worldwide for “mistakes” over the purchase and management of Lonely Planet. BBC Worldwide paid £132m over two stages (in 2007 and 2011) to own 100% of the business, investing a further £20m, but sold it last March to media company NC2 for just £51.5m.
Since its purchase, Lonely Planet has made around 80 redundancies worldwide, with 15 roles in its London office dissolved in July. A statement released by the company’s Melbourne HQ at the time said: "Lonely Planet today announced to staff and contributors a series of changes to its operations in response to a challenging external environment and to position the company for continued success." However, a Lonely Planet spokesperson told The Bookseller that 27 new roles have been created in the London office following the redundancies.
The travel publisher was originally founded by Tony and Maureen Wheeler as a backpacker's guide 40 years ago.