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Modest helping of Pi brings slimmer profits at Canongate

INDEPENDENT Edinburgh publisher Canongate Books has reported another successful trading year, despite falling sales of "cash cow" title Life Of Pi, Yann Martel's 2002 Man Booker prize winner.

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The company, led by the charismatic Jamie Byng, posted a pre-tax profit of more than GBP600,000 in calendar 2004, down from GBP1.1m the previous year. Sales totalled GBP4.9m, compared with GBP7.1m in 2003.

The Yann Martel novel sold more than 300,000 copies in 2004, down from 800,000 in the previous 12 months. Other top sellers were Buddha Da, an unlikely tale of Glaswegian Buddhists by Anne Donovan;

The Girl Who Married a Lion, a collection of African folk tales by Alexander McCall Smith;

and Niccolo Ammaniti's I'm Not Scared. All three titles sold more than 60,000 copies in paperback last year.

Canongate cited three more titles which were published "with great success" in 2004 and which will provide income streams for 2005 and beyond.

They are: Brass, Helen Walsh's racy and controversial novel set in Liverpool; trivia guide The Book of Lists; and Midnight Cab, an award-winning first novel by James W Nichol.

David Graham, Canongate's managing director, has said he expects its expansion plans to be fuelled by export sales. Last year Canongate bought a majority shareholding in Text Publishing in Melbourne, Australia, and formed a joint venture with Grove Atlantic in New York.

"Both of these strategic decisions should lay the foundations for future growth, " the company said.

Canongate paid dividends of GBP125,989 last year, compared with more than GBP500,000 in 2003. The recipients of the cash are understood to include director Sir Christopher Bland - Byng's stepfather and the current chairman of BT Group.

FACT FILE

2004 2003 TURNOVER GBP4.9m GBP7.1m PRE-TAX PROFIT GBP611,696 GBP1.12m DIVIDEND GBP125,989 GBP503,954 Full-year figures

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