Australian e-retailer Booktopia (ASX: BKG) is dipping its toes further into vertical integration after reaching a deal to secure 25 per cent of a British independent publisher's new Australia-New Zealand subsidiary.
UK-based Welbeck Publishing Group (WPG) will set up shop in our region with its subsidiary Welbeck ANZ, following a commitment from Booktopia to invest $3 million in the new venture that is expected to be operational by January 2022.
Under the new partnership, due to be finalised by 30 September, the Sydney-based company's distribution arm Booktopia Publisher Services (BPS) will distribute Welbeck ANZ's catalogue of approximately 250 new titles each year and backlist of 5,000 titles directly within Australia and New Zealand.
The strategic partnership with WPG extends Booktopia's investment in publishing and follows the integration of Brio Books earlier this year as well at the creation of its own imprint - Booktopia Editions - in 2019.
WPG founder and director Mark Smith will relocate to Australia in early 2022 to assist with the establishment of the business and the recruitment of key publishing and operations staff.
Smith's fellow WPG executive director Marcus Leaver will also base himself in Sydney for parts of each year.
Booktopia founder and chief executive Tony Nash says the investment is part of Booktopia's strategy to be at the core of the Australian and New Zealand book industries.
"The big winners from this partnership are the readers, who will now have better access to Welbeck's huge catalogue of the very best and most commercial books," Nash says.
"In bringing together two well-known businesses with strong track records, we're excited to deliver positive outcomes for authors, our customers and the industry in Australia and New Zealand."
Nash says the Booktopia team have been impressed with Welbeck's "publishing prowess", having known Smith and Leaver for many years.
"It is an honour and a privilege to be able to invest in their publishing program moving forward. The Welbeck Publishing Group is on a fast track to becoming a major player in the global independent publishing world," he says.
"As a shareholder in Welbeck ANZ we will be able to champion their international and local titles into the Australian market. They have 4,500 titles on their list already and it continues to grow.
"Booktopia's mission is to be at the central core of the ANZ book industry and investing in publishing companies like the Welbeck Publishing Group takes us one step closer to our goal."
WPG has also announced the formation of a local ANZ publishing program with the aim of publishing 50 titles a year across fiction, narrative non-fiction, children's books, and a small range of illustrated and gift titles.
Smith says he and Weaver have long harboured ambitions for Welbeck to establish its own operations in Australia and New Zealand, and they are delighted to have agreed this partnership with Tony Nash and the team at Booktopia.
"Having published key Australian and New Zealand authors such as Peter Temple, Isla Fisher, Heather Morris, Monica McInerny, Robert Ingpen, Bernard Beckett and Withi Ihimaera in international markets and successfully connected international authors such as Stieg Larsson, Stef Penney, Lisa Hilton, Lynda la Plante and Wilbur Smith with Australian readers, we are very excited to now be in a position to discover new authors and work with established writers through our new Sydney based publishing operation," Smith says.
"Within a short period of time, we plan to be a significant independent publisher in the ANZ market with a fresh, innovative, and entrepreneurial approach that connects as many authors with readers as possible all around the world," adds Leaver.
The announcement was made after the ASX market close today.
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