* Q3 sales 1.96 bln euros vs poll 1.95-2.00 billion
* Still aims for flat 2012 media operating profit
* Strong publishing partially offset weak press, broadcasting
PARIS, Nov 13 (Reuters) - French media-to-aerospace group Lagardere kept its annual profit target on Tuesday, as strong book publishing sales helped it limit its third-quarter revenue decline to 1 percent.
The book publishing division, which accounts for a quarter of group revenue, was boosted by the launch of new books such as J.K. Rowling’s “The Casual Vacancy”, and this partially offset a 17 percent sales slump in Lagardere Active, the group’s magazines and radio division.
Lagardere, which competes with Pearson Plc and Bertelsmann AG in radio and book publishing, said it still expected its core 2012 media profit to be stable compared to 2011.
Third-quarter revenue was 1.96 billion euros ($2.5 billion), compared with analysts’ expectations of 1.95-2.00 billion euros, according to a poll of six analysts.
In late August, Lagardere predicted that the second half of the year would be stronger than the first, after which it posted a 30 percent slump in core profit on stable revenues.
Lagardere Active, which publishes magazines like Paris Match and owns radio stations in France and Belgium, accounts for roughly a fifth of the company’s revenues and is the most sensitive to the advertising cycle.
Lagardere Services, which includes retail outlets in airports and train stations and distribution, recorded a 0.3 percent sales decline which reflected a 7.7 percent rise in travel retail and a 4.1 percent drop in distribution activities.
Lagardere is also preparing a fresh attempt to list its 20 percent stake in pay-TV operator Canal+ France, sources have told Reuters. It earlier tried to sell the stake to Vivendi , which owns the rest of Canal+, and aborted an attempted IPO in March last year.