Uneven E-book Growth Sees Lagardere Book Sales Slim

Global holiday-quarter books revenue dipped by 3.8 percent at Hachette operator Lagardere Publishing despite booming western e-book sales, the Lagardere group reported, as it warned it would write off almost €1 ($1.3/£0.83) billion against other group activities.

For Lagardere, which operates several imprints including the flagship Hachette, e-books grew to make up six percent of total 2011 publishing sales. In the October-to-December Q4, that was 20 percent in the U.S., 10 percent in UK.

Hachette’s total U.S. book sales revenue grew 12.8 percent thanks to strong bestsellers withstanding Borders’ bankruptcy. But even Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography, for which Hachette has some territorial rights, did not stop UK sales slipping 4.5 percent – something Lagardere blamed on the collapse of Australia’s Borders operator, REDgroup.

Lagardere said the U.S. sales growth was “despite the impact of e-books, which generate lower net sales per unit but higher margin“. It did not specify sales numbers by volume.

In contrast, the publisher reported: “In France, new e-readers were launched in the autumn but have not triggered a breakthrough in the market yet.”

Lagardere group revenue fell 0.2 percent (like-for-like), with stable performances from its magazine and TV businesses and from its print news distribution business, plus 10 percent growth from its talent management division thanks to the upcoming Euro 2012 and Olympic Games events.

But Lagardere forecasts a profit fall of up to 12 percent for the full year. And it said the worsening economy plus an expected poor autumn performance from its talent management division and a dip in shares of its Canal+ TV company will force it to record full-year impairment losses of around €900 ($1173.78/£745.29) million.