Pearson 'in discussions' regarding sale of 50 per cent stake in Economist

Pearson has confirmed it is “in discussions” about selling its 50 per cent share in The Economist magazine. (Picture: Shutterstock)

The company announced the sale of the Financial Times for £844m to Japanese company Nikkei last week.

An announcement today said: ”Pearson confirms it is in discussions with The Economist Group Board and trustees regarding the potential sale of its 50% share in the Group.

“There is no certainty that this process will lead to a transaction.

“We will make further announcements if and when appropriate.”

The Economist Group, like the Financial Times Group, is part of Pearson’s Professional division. On Friday, Pearson’s half-year results showed that the Professional division recorded an adjusted operating profit of £38m for the six months, up year-on-year from £29m. Its turnover was £553m, up from £519m. 

According to the results – released on Friday – the Economist Group made an increased contribution "as growth in circulation, custom research and marketing services revenues offset declines in print advertising".

The magazine's global circulation remained at 1.6m, according to Pearson, level with the last two years. The publisher said that the Economist saw a 57 per cent increase in "subscribers choosing digital packages".

Pearson also revealed that the magazine's Espresso app, launched at the end of 2014, has been downloaded more than 800,000 times. In April, the group launched the Economist Global Business Review, an English-Chinese smartphone app. Pearson said this was its first bilingual product.

The UK edition of The Economist recorded an average weekly circulation of 223,915 in the second half of 2014, according to ABC, up 1.3 per cent. Nearly a quarter of this circulation is made up of free bulk copies.

The FT has owned half of The Economist since 1928. And Pearson has owned the FT since 1957.

The other half of The Economist is owned by independent shareholders.

Quoting "people close to the sale negotiations" the FT has said Pearson's 50 per cent Economist stake could be worth £400m.

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