Monday 19 March 2018

Japan's Nikkei buys the FT in €1.2bn deal

The headquarters of the Financial Times newspaper in London. Photo: Reuters
The headquarters of the Financial Times newspaper in London. Photo: Reuters
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

British publisher Pearson has agreed a deal to sell its Financial Times (FT) Group unit, including the iconic pink newspaper brand and associated financial publications, to Japan's Nikkei.

The £844m (€1.2bn) cash deal does not include FT Group's London property at One Southwark Bridge in central London or Pearson's 50pc stake in The Economist Group.

The FT Group is profitable, and contributed £334m of sales and £24m of operating income to Pearson last year.

Earlier it was reported that Pearson was in advanced talks with both Germany's Axel Springer and Nikkei about a possible deal.

Japanese media group Nikkei emerged on top following the discussions. Nikkei publishes a number of financial and economic titles in print and online. Its Nikkei stock market of leading Japanese shares is the equivalent of the FT linked FTSE100, with each seen as the benchmarket of mainstream stocks in their home market.

Recent media reports had suggested potential buyers could include data firms Thomson Reuters and Bloomberg.

If concluded, the deal will bring an end to years of speculation as to whether the 171-year-old Pearson would sell the FT, a so-called "trophy asset" which was first printed on pink paper in 1893 in order to stand out from rival titles.

Marjorie Scardino, who ran Pearson for 16 years, had ruled out selling the paper.

But a sale was seen more likely when John Fallon, who had no publishing experience, took over the top job in 2013.

The FT has done a better job than most newspapers in adapting to the digital revolution, helped by a loyal customer base who will pay for access to the newspaper and website, analysts are not convinced it makes much of a profit.

"They've done a good job -probably better than anybody else from a UK newspaper perspective - in terms of transitioning to a model online, so I think you can see why that is attractive," said one analyst, who asked not to be named.

Full-year results for 2014 showed the FT increased its circulation by 10pc to a record high of nearly 720,000 in print and online. More than 500,000 were digital subscriptions.

Pearson, founded in 1844 as a small building firm in Yorkshire in England, was once one of the world's largest building contractors and has had a long list of varied interests from banking and publishing to owning theme parks and Madame Tussaud's waxworks.

The group has sold off other news interests such as Mergermarket and French business newspaper 'Les Echos' in recent years. (Additional reporting Bloomberg and Reuters)

Irish Independent

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Also in Business