Random House trilogy boosts bottom line

BERLIN — Experiencing a major rise from E.L. James’ “Fifty Shades” trilogy, German media giant Bertelsmann enjoyed a dramatic surge in profit in the first half of the year.

The group, which owns Random House, the world’s largest trade publishing group, and pan-European broadcasting conglom RTL Group, posted a whopping 31% increase in net earnings to Euros353 million ($443 million) as revenue climbed 5% to $9.5 billion.

Record operating profits at Random House drove Bertelsmann’s soaring net profit, the company said. The publisher posted a 64% increase in operating profit to $142 million and a 20% jump in revenue to $1.2 billion, due largely to the spectacular success of the record-breaking “Fifty Shades.”

The titillating trilogy sold more than 30 million copies between March and June, with sales evenly divided between the trade paperback and e-book editions. “The Social Network” producers Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti are producing the big-screen adaptation of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” the first book in the trilogy, for Universal Pictures and Focus Features.

The company was also boosted by a number of other bestsellers, including George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” fantasy series, the basis for HBO’s smash-hit “Game of Thrones,” John Grisham’s “Calico Joe,” Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl” and Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax.”

In line with Bertelsmann’s goal of moving to digital, the company said e-book sales at Random House continued to grow significantly in all territories.

Bertelsmann said almost all of its divisions contributed to the increase in revenue.

As previously reported, RTL posted a 15% drop in net profit to $344 million between January and June, while first-half revenue climbed 3.3% to $3.5 billion.

Bertelsmann CEO Thomas Rabe said the company is looking to accelerate momentum with a four-pronged strategy that would “gradually reshape Bertelsmann over the next few years, including strengthening its core businesses, transforming its businesses to digital, developing and expanding growth platforms and expanding into growth regions such as Asia and South America. Bertelsmann recently opened new corporate centers in India and Brazil.

Looking forward, Rabe said he expected moderate growth for the current year and a year-on-year increase in net profit.

“However, the subdued economic prospects and the euro crisis, whose repercussions are challenging to gauge, making it difficult to predict future developments at this time.”

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