The value of Lonely Planet has been estimated at £50m less than the sum paid by the BBC five years ago. The valuation comes as the travel guide publisher transitions into digital, where sales are up 200%.
In its annual review for 2011-12, BBC Worldwide said it valued Lonely Planet at £85m, after buying a 75% stake in the company in 2007 for £88.1m, with its total investment upping to £130.2m when founders Tony and Maureen Wheeler sold their stakes in February last year.
BBC Worldwide’s annual review said that in the 12 months to March 2012, the company had incurred a charge to the income statement of £16.1m, which was exacerbated due to the underlying performance of the strength of the Australian dollar.
The company said: “Despite solid underlying performance, the Australian dollar has continued to strengthen, proving challenging for the Lonely Planet business, which incurs the majority of its costs in its home of Australia, but earns the majority of its revenue streams in sterling, euros and US dollars.”
It added: “During the year, the group began to implement changes to the Lonely Planet business which management believes will help to secure its long-term viability and reduce the impact of further currency appreciation. This includes reducing the Australian cost base, relocation of its Digital business from Australia to the UK and exploitation of the Lonely Planet brand through online travel booking services.”
Lonely Planet said its e-books had been “a big growth area,” with revenue up over 200% year on year and 260 titles now available. It added that over 700,000 people were now registered to www.lonelyplanet.com and the website now received over half a billion page views, reaching a monthly average of 11.3m unique users (up 35.8% on last year). Downloads of Lonely Planet iPhone apps have reached 10m.
The company added: “Lonely Planet once again performed creditably in the travel guidebook market, growing audiences across print and digital. Despite a challenging book retail market, in 2012 Lonely Planet became the number one brand in travel publishing in the USA, up from number three at the time of our first investment, taking us to leadership positions in all main markets.
"In emerging markets, we established operations in Delhi, creating and publishing travel guides by Indian authors, launched our first Portuguese language guides in Brazil and signed an agreement with a Russian publishing partner.”