Pearson Profit Up Despite Lower Sales

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(AP) Improved efficiency helped British publisher Pearson PLC return to profit last year despite lower sales, the company announced Monday.

The owner of the Financial Times newspaper and the publisher Penguin said it earned 55 million pounds ($102.8 million) for the year ended Dec. 31 in contrast to a loss of 111 million pounds in 2002.

Pearson’s sales declined 4% to 4.05 billion pounds ($7.57 billion) in 2003 from 4.32 billion pounds a year earlier.

“In the face of a tough business environment over the past few years we have improved our market positions through operating efficiency and product quality,” chief executive Marjorie Scardino said. “We are now leaner, stronger and more ready for the better conditions we’re beginning to see ahead.”

In 2003, Pearson said 60.5% of its revenue came from its educational publishing business, Pearson Education, whose schoolbook imprints include Prentice Hall and Addison Wesley Longman. Profits from school sales and higher education sales rose 13% and 11% respectively.

But professional sales and profits were down compared to 2002, when a U.S. Transportation Security Administration contract contributed 250 million pounds to sales.

The Financial Times Group saw profits rise by 8% and experienced the first signs of improvement in advertising trends in the second half of the year.

Penguin, the company’s consumer publishing business, increased revenues and profits by 2% last year.

Shares in Pearson rose 1.25 pence (2.34 cents) to 621.25 pence ($11.62) in trading early Monday on the London Stock Exchange.

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