Rebuck looks to second-half strength at Random UK

<p>Random House UK is behind its sales budget for the first half of 2009, but ahead of its profit targets, chief executive Dame Gail Rebuck has revealed. Rebuck also said that the publisher&#39;s &quot;strength&quot; lay in the second half of the year &quot;with a terrific autumn list that is head and shoulders above anything I can ever remember&quot;.</p><p>According to parent Bertelsmann, Random House Worldwide&#39;s sales dropped from &euro;766m to &euro;734m in the half-year to June 30th 2009, with its operating profit down from &euro;31m to &euro;20m.</p><p>The group does not split out its UK figures, but in her half-year letter to staff, Rebuck stated: &quot;Trading conditions have continued to be difficult, with the recession still hitting consumer spending and the total book market was down, as was our share of that market. This was despite us achieving a 25% share of the <em>Sunday Times</em> bestsellers lists and having more appearances at number one than any other publisher.&quot;</p><p>She added: &quot;Our sales have been affected by the overall market conditions in most territories and they are behind budget to date but this has been mitigated by our successful profit enhancement programme and we end the first six months of 2009 ahead of our profit target.&quot;</p><p>Markus Dohle, worldwide chief executive, echoed Rebuck, admitting that &quot;this six-month period was very tough for us&quot;. But he stated: &quot;Our fiscal year is not all gloom and doom. Our six-month results only partially reflect the current big turn in the right direction for our business &mdash; our strong sales performance overall during June, July, and August in our territories. Our monthly numbers are rising, thanks to some of our biggest-selling titles of 2009.&quot; He also stressed that in the second half &quot;each of our companies around the world will be publishing what many believe is our best list ever&quot;.</p><p>Rebuck highlighted a &quot;roll call of talent&quot;, which includes J M Coetzee, Sebastian Faulks, Audrey Niffenegger, Sadie Jones, John Grisham, Philip Roth, Robert Harris, Terry Pratchett, James Patterson, Andy McNab, Richard Dawkins, Jacqueline Wilson, Delia Smith, Harry Hill, Jack Dee and Peter Kay, as well as Dan Brown&#39;s <em>The Lost Symbol</em> on 15th September.</p><p>And she stressed: &quot;Now is the time to be bold and brave both in traditional publishing and our digital future.&quot;</p><p>Overall at Bertelsmann first-half revenues reached &euro;7.2bn, against &euro;7.7bn in the previous year. Operating earnings before interest fell to &euro;475m, compared with &euro;685m. However, a high number of one-time costs resulted in an overall net loss of &euro;333m, compared with a &euro;372m profit a year earlier. None of Bertelsmann&#39;s five divisions recorded a sales increase, while only its printing business Arvato managed to increase profits. </p><p>Bertelsmann chief executive Hartmut Ostrowski said: &quot;Our strict cost discipline is beginning to have a significant positive financial impact. Every division, including group headquarters has systematically reviewed all costs and structures. The packages of measures that were put together as part of this program are extremely wideranging and varied and will save us over &euro;900m this year alone.&quot;<br /><br />As of 30th June 2009, Bertelsmann had 103,452 employees worldwide, at the end of 2008 it had 107,154. </p>