Go back

Elsevier parent reports 10% hike in profits for 2023


Relx made 2023 net profit of £1.79 billion on revenue of £9.16bn

The parent company of scholarly publishing giant Elsevier reported a 10 per cent increase in its profitability in 2023, resulting in a net profit of £1.79 billion (€2.09bn) on revenue of £9.16bn.

“Relx delivered strong revenue and profit growth in 2023, driven by the ongoing shift in business mix towards higher-growth information-based analytics and decision tools that deliver enhanced value to our customers across market segments,” said chief executive officer Erik Engstrom.

“We are confident that our ability to leverage artificial intelligence and other technologies, as they evolve, will continue to be an important driver of customer value and growth in our business for many years to come.”

Scientific, technical and medical performance

The scientific, technical and medical unit of the parent, which includes Elsevier, made an adjusted operating profit of £1.17bn on revenue of £3.06bn, for a margin of 38 per cent. This profit was 6 per cent higher than in 2022, or 3 per cent adjusting for currency changes.

“Primary research in academic and government segments, which…represent around 45 per cent of [STM] divisional revenue, continue to be driven by volume growth,” the company reported on 15 February. “Article submissions returned to strong growth, with pay-to-publish open-access articles continuing to grow particularly strongly.”

Relx said it expected “good underlying revenue growth” for its STM division in 2024, “with underlying adjusted operating profit growth slightly exceeding underlying revenue growth”.

Pressure from stakeholders

As in previous recent years, Relx again flagged that evolution of the payment model in scholarly publishing remains a risk for the company.

“There is continued debate in government, academic and library communities, regarding the payment models and the extent to which research content should be freely available to read,” it said. “Rapid changes in customer choice or regulation in this area could impact the mix and overall level of revenue generated by our primary research publishing business.”

In May last year, the Council of the EU governments adopted a position expressing “concern that the increasing costs of…scholarly publishing cause inequalities and are becoming unsustainable for public research funders”. The Council highlighted the importance of non-profit scholarly publishing models and encouraged their support.

But later that same year, the independent scholarly publishing consultant Rob Johnson wrote a report for the European Commission which concluded that non-profit publishers should not be expected to be able to offer cheaper services than companies, at least in their early phases of development.