Sell 'FT,' Pearson Shareholders Urge

By: E&P Staff Having just backed off bidding against Rupert Murdoch for Dow Jones & Co., Pearson is now being urged by big stockholders and a leading industry analyst to sell its flagship Financial Times.

The Guardian in Manchester, England, reports in its Monday editions that the call to sell the FT "from powerful Pearson shareholders and leading media analyst Lorna Tilbian, whose views are taken seriously within the City."

Guardian City Editor Richard Wachman quoted Tilbian as saying that having failed to take Dow Jones and its Wall Street Journal away from Murdoch, Pearson should get out of the News Corp. chief's line of fire.

"The way I see things, it was double or quits for Pearson," Tilbian said. "They had a chance to buy a principal competitor, but it hasn't come off. Now they should sell the FT at a time when the financial advertising market is strong and the paper is doing well."

Competing directly with a Murdoch-owned Journal, she added, could harm the FT the way News Corp. British papers have wounded their competitors. "Look at what the Times has done to the Telegraph or the Sun to the Mirror," she said. "The competition has been harsh. Does Pearson want that?"

The FT, the leading financial daily in English-speaking Europe, could fetch 700 million pounds (U.S. $1.39 billion), the Guardian estimated.

The Guardian also quotes an unnamed representative of an institutional shareholder as saying "momentum is building" for CEO Marjorie Scardino to further "streamline" Pearson. "It is not clear where the FT fits into a group that gets most of its profit from educational publishing," this shareholder said.

In a statement, Pearson did not directly respond to the call for a sale of the FT, saying "The FT group is growing strongly because of our investment in content, technology, international expansion and efficiency. We are building long-term value for our shareholders, as with the rest of the company."


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