Bloomsbury Publishing has delivered its highest first half earnings since 2008, as "signficantly higher” online book sales and e-book revenues led to year-on-year profit growth of 60% to £4m in the six months ended 31st August 2020.
Bloomsbury raised £8.4m at the beginning of the lockdown, predicting then that print sales would fall dramatically. However the feared drop off in sales never materialised, and these results will be seen as a barometer for the trade, with strong sales at Bloomsbury's consumer wing evidence of how the big trade publishers are weathering the pandemic. Bloomsbury added that it "continued to trade well during the first six weeks of the second half".
Revenue grew by 10% to £78.3m (2019, £71.3m), and profit before taxation and highlighted items increased by 60% to £4m (2019, £2.5m). Profit before taxation was £3m (2019, £1.3m). It ended the period with a significant war-chest too, with net cash of £44.1m, up from £24m a year earlier. Bloomsbury said print book sales were worth £57.7m this year, compared with £56.6m. Digital sales grew to £17.6m against £11.2m.
Bloomsbury said that its consumer division recorded 17% revenue growth to £48.6m (2019, £41.5m) and a £2.1m increase in profit before tax and highlighted items to £2.7m. Stand-out bestsellers during the period included Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race, Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood, White Rage, Humankind and Such A Fun Age.
The adult team delivered growth with a 16% increase in revenue to £18.8m and a £1.2m increase in profit before taxation and highlighted items to £1.1m. Children’s sales increased by 18% to £29.8m (2019, £25.3m). There was strong demand for classic titles, led by J K Rowling’s Harry Potter series, as well as Sarah J Maas’ latest bestseller, Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood.
The non-consumer division consisting of Academic & Professional and Special interest, recorded revenues within 1% of last year at £29.7m (2019, £29.9m). Profit before taxation and highlighted items for this division was also down, £1.4m, compared with £1.8m in 2019.
Academic & Professional revenues increased by 1% to £20.1m and profit was £1.8m. Within this, there was 47% growth in sales of Bloomsbury Digital Resources. Bloomsbury said the accelerated demand for digital products and swift adoption of digital learning by academic institutions helped drive the excellent performance of BDR and accelerated demand for e-books, which offset reduced print sales.
Bloomsbury's interim dividend of 1.28pence per share was as it was last year. Nigel Newton, chief executive, said: "Bloomsbury is in a strong financial position, with net cash of £44.1m at 31 August 2020, as a result of excellent trading in the first half and the swift measures taken by the board to control costs and strengthen Bloomsbury’s balance sheet. The strength of our financial position meant that we continued to operate effectively, invest in new content, and build a strong pipeline of authors and titles. Bloomsbury is well positioned for the future, with sufficient working capital and significant headroom for acquisitions opportunities."
He told The Bookseller: "Our successes over the last six months have reflected the mood of the people. People wanted hope and positive view of humanity we happen to bring out Humankind in May, in June we were engaging with the biggest social issues of our times with Why I'm no Longer Talking to White People About Race. Books provide escapism and loads of people were searching for any novel to read that would take them away from the present day.
"I'm an optimist, so without having any factual basis for saying this whatsoever I think Christmas is going to be absolutely brilliant for the book industry. More and more people are sadly made unemployed, but paperback books are an affordable luxury and I think the superpower of books is that people want them in lockdown."