Snicket shines for Egmont

<p>Lemony Snicket and Mr Men helped to push sales up 8% at Egmont in 2004, reversing 2003's decline in sales. Turnover at the children's publisher was &#163;28.1m in the year to-end December 2004, up from &#163;26m in 2003 and &#163;27.4m in 2002. Pretax profits were &#163;1.3m, up from last year's &#163;224,000.

Group managing director Rob McMenemy put the change in Egmont's fortunes down to the absence of some of the negative aspects of 2003, including the problems with supermarket supplier Cork, as well as strong performances from its relaunched learning and colour&amp;activity lists.

UK sales represented nearly 80% of Egmont Books' turnover, at &#163;22.4m up from &#163;19.7m in 2003, but international sales declined to &#163;5.7m against &#163;6.3m in 2003. McMenemy attributed this to "tough market conditions and a weak dollar", but said Egmont's joint venture with Australian company Hardie Grant Egmont has "substantially increased business".

Fiction showed a 21% increase over 2003 with Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events having sold over three million copies in the UK so far. Jenny Nimmo, Enid Blyton and Michael Morpurgo also performed well. Egmont has over 36% of the market for children's licensed character books in the UK, and reported that Mr Men, Thomas the Tank Engine, Tintin and Winnie the Pooh recorded strong growth in 2004.

Egmont split into two new divisions, Egmont Press and Egmont Publishing, in November last year following a review of its UK operations.

McMenemy said: "I am particularly pleased that we have achieved so much in the context of a difficult trading environment, and the fact that we managed to achieve our restructure without jeopardising day to day trading is testimony to everyone in the company. The book business performed very well, despite the problems created by Cork, and I would like to pay tribute not only to our publishing and editorial people, who produced some star titles, but to the great performance of our UK sales team, who maximised every opportunity."</p>