Bertelsmann Profits Boosted by Michelle Obama's Book Success


German media and publishing group Bertelsmann reported net profits of over one billion euros for the fourth straight year on Tuesday, a figure boosted by sales of Michelle Obama's memoir.

Last year, the group profit of Bertelsmann, which also owns television station RTL and several European-wide magazines, reached 1.1 billion euros ($1.2 billion), exceeding the company's milestone target of one billion euros.

The operating profit was 2.59 billion euros, two percent down on last year's record level of 2.64 billion euros, while sales revenue rose 2.8 percent to 17.7 billion euros, returning to the highest level since 2007.

"We became a faster-growing, more digital, and more international group," chairman and CEO Thomas Rabe said in a statement.

"Organic growth is higher than it has been for years, and nearly half of our revenues came from digital activities."

The profit figures were buoyed by sales of "Becoming" by U.S. former first lady Michelle Obama, through publishing arm Penguin Random House. 

"The most successful book of the year was Michelle Obama's 'Becoming', which has sold nearly 10 million copies, just in the company's English-, Spanish- and German-language territories to date," Rabe said.

Music division BMG had a strong growth year, acquiring production companies Big Bang & Fuzz and World Circuit, and signing artists such as former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, Lenny Kravitz, and Yusuf, otherwise known as Cat Stevens. 

The service provider Arvato and learning division Bertelsmann Education Group also recorded "strong growth."

The group's digital portals saw an increase in sales of 10 percent over one year, thanks mainly to the discovery app AppLike.

For the current year, Rabe says the group is aiming for "continued sales growth" and "high operating profitability."

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