Murdoch's WSJ won't impact on FT - analysts told

Rupert Murdoch’s acquisition of the Wall Street Journal will not have an impact on the Financial Times because there is a “fundamental difference” between the two titles, the FT Group chief executive has told analysts.

In a presentation to the City this morning, Rona Fairhead played down the effect of competing with News Corp in the US and said she was optimistic about the FT’s editorial direction.

“We’ve been competing against the Wall Street Journal for many years and they’re one of a number of competitors out there in the market,” she said.

“We’re not complacent about our competitors, but we have a very specific strategy which we’re executing and the results are coming through.”

Fairhead said there was room in the market for both the FT – which she said was targeted at global, senior decision-makers – and the Journal, which “at the heart of it is a big US newspaper”.

Her comments came as Financial Times publisher Pearson announced record profits for 2007, up 14 per cent to £634m. Profits for FT Publishing rose 85 per cent on a like-for-like basis to £56m.

Pearson chief executive Marjorie Scardino said today that a “series of upgrades” would be made to FT.com this year.

The site has claimed monthly unique users of 5.7 million – up 30 per cent on the previous year – and monthly page impressions up 33 per cent to 48.2 million.

Fairhead added: “At FT.com we’re doing some pretty innovative things – more videos, more blogs. We’re looking to improve our editorial proposition.”

Although luxury goods advertising has been buoyant over the past few years, Fairhead said a number of advertising sectors were under-performing.

“In terms of the more troubled sectors, recruitment last year was a little bit down and it’s not picking up this year,” she said.

“We’re starting to see some signs in the financial side, and technology remains at a pretty low level.”

Pearson has continued with the disposal of its international business newspapers in the past year. It sold its French financial newspaper group to LVMH for £170m in November, and in January this year, it offloaded its 50 per cent stake in FT Deutschland to Gruner & Jahr for an undisclosed sum.

“We’ll continue to invest in the FT’s international growth,” Scardino said this morning. “We’ll build our brand and our revenues in content, conferences and advertising, and we’ll benefit from some cost measures that were taken last year.”

Pearson shares fell sharply this morning, down 4.2 per cent from 666p to 638p, but are now beginning to recover. At midday, they were 647.5p.

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