Pearson in talks to sell FT newspaper

The company said it had “noted recent press speculation” surrounding the possible sale of the FT, but added that there was “no certainty” that the discussions would lead to a deal.

Rumours regarding the sale emerged on Monday as Shares in the group jumped more than 2 per cent on the news, according to The BBC.

Pearson’s statement added that it would make a further announcement “if and when appropriate”.

That could be within hours, according to German newspaper Der Spiegel, which reported that the German publisher Axel Springer was the unnamed company in negotiations to buy the Financial Times from Pearson.

The newspaper quoted a source at Axel Springer who said the talks were “well advanced” and the result could become clear before the end of the day.

The newspaper added that three bidders had still been in the process as recently as Wednesday. The other publishers linked to the purchase include Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters.

Some reports have suggested that Pearson, which owns a large stake in the book publisher Penguin Random House, could sell the newspaper group for around £1bn, having long been thought ready to sell the newspaper.

The publishing group has been moving increasingly into the provision of education services in North America and in emerging markets. It has previously said it remained committed to the newspaper because of its strong brand.

As well as the Financial Times paper, the FT group includes Financial Times Business, the group’s business-to-business publishing group, a joint venture with the Russian business newspaper Vedemosti, as well as a 50 per cent stake in the Economist magazine.

Jasper Lawler of CMC markets said the talks were somewhat “counterintuitive”, given that a spokesman for Pearson’s had previously said selling the newspaper was not part of the group’s strategy.

He added that the Financial Times was one of the few newspaper websites that had managed to transition well into a subscriber based – or paywall – business model.

The Financial Times, which launched in 1888, has a combined paid print and digital circulation of 720,000, 70 per cent of its readership is generated through its website.

The newspaper’s digital subscriptions overtook print circulation in 2012, while tablets and smartphones account for about half of traffic to the website.

The announcement of the sale talks comes a day before the release of Pearson’s half-year results.

Last year the group, which gets 90 per cent of its revenues from its educational book publishing business, reported a 12.5 per cent fall in net profit to £471m as a result of restructuring costs and currency fluctuations.