Pearson to push FT further into China via Web

LONDON - British-based publisher Pearson said it planned to invest more in Web-based activities, particularly in the business segment via the Financial Times in the fast-growing Chinese market.

By (Reuters)

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Published: Mon 26 Feb 2007, 5:19 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 8:31 PM

Pearson Chief Executive Marjorie Scardino, speaking to reporters in a call on Monday after the company’s 2006 results, said she had ‘very strong plans’ for the Financial Times.

Scardino said new online FT initiatives offering additional content to diversify revenue streams were a key plank of her strategy. These were being led by Rona Fairhead, who heads the Financial Times Group.

She singled out China, where the FT is building its Chinese language Financial Times Web site, as a key market.

‘It is the biggest business Web site that is not Chinese in China -- for that big market which we cannot really circulate many newspapers in. It is exciting so that is the sort of thing you will see us do,’ she said.

Almost half of the FT’s advertising is booked for all four FT editions worldwide with 75 percent booked in two or more international editions.

‘That is a very big deal for us,’ Scardino said.

Pearson’s results showed FT publishing sales rose 10 percent to 366 million pounds from 332 million a year ago. Adjusted operating profit climbed 52 percent to 32 million pounds.

FT.com’s paying subscribers rose 7 percent to 90,000 with its December audience up 29 percent at 4.2 million.

Scardino said FT Group advertising rose 30 percent in 2006 due to strength in online business and ads focused on corporate finance and luxury goods.

‘I think the trend you will see for ft.com rather than huge money spent on subscription growth is customisation of different parts of it -- our real approach to this is to add services to our content to make it more relevant to each reader or user.’

Her remarks on the FT’s UK and international business are strategically and symbolically important given her widely repeated line back in 2002 that the sale of the Financial Times newspaper would only happen ‘over my dead body’.

Numerous analyst notes and press comment in recent months have singled out the FT Group as an area where Pearson could offload assets to focus more on its education interests.

According to Reuters’ Estimates, Pearson’s shares trade on 20 times forecast 2007 earnings, a premium to the sector which is largely due to expectations the market has for disposals, most notably within the FT Group, Penguin or Massachusetts-based IDC a US listed market data provider that Pearson has a majority stake in.

However, Scardino’s comments suggest such hopes might be misplaced.

‘Penguin, FT, education all have the same characteristics so we can apply the strategies of grow online and digitally, internationalism, be sure to bring services to content rather than just being a content company,’ the CEO said.

‘Those strategies apply perfectly and they are making those businesses work,’ she added.



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