Pearson to sell Financial Times to Nikkei for $1.3 billion

The Financial Times newspaper is on display in London, Thursday, July 23, 2015. (AP)

Pearson PLC, the owner of the Financial Times, said Thursday it has agreed to sell FT Group to Japanese media group Nikkei Inc. for 844 million pounds ($1.3 billion), payable in cash.

John Fallon, chief executive of Pearson, said the company has been a proud proprietor of the Financial Times for nearly 60 years, but it is time for the business daily to change hands.

“We’ve reached an inflection point in media, driven by the explosive growth of mobile and social. In this new environment, the best way to ensure the FT’s journalistic and commercial success is for it to be part of a global, digital news company,” he said in a statement.

Nikkei Inc. is the largest independent business media group in Asia. Its core business is newspaper publishing, and its flagship paper, The Nikkei, has about 3 million subscribers.

The deal would be one of the largest-ever acquisitions by a Japanese media company, said Nikkei Asian Review, one of the company’s outlets.

Pearson, which considers educational products and services its core business, acquired the salmon-colored Financial Times in 1957. The FT Group includes the Financial Times, FT.com, a 50 percent stake in The Economist Group, and a joint venture with Vedomosti, a Russian business newspaper.

The deal with Nikkei does not include FT Group’s London headquarters or Pearson’s stake in The Economist, Pearson said. The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals and is expected to close before the end of the year.

Pearson will now focus fully on its global education business, Fallon said.

Nikkei, founded in 1876, also operates media businesses including books and magazines, digital media, database services and broadcasting. The company recently re-launched its English-language services online and in print as part of a strategy to expand its coverage from Japan to Asia.

Nikkei Chairman and CEO Tsuneo Kita says he is “extremely proud” to team with the FT.

“Our motto of providing high-quality reporting on economic and other news, while maintaining fairness and impartiality, is very close to that of the FT,” he said in a statement. “We share the same journalistic values.”

The FT reported earlier Thursday that the potential FT Group buyer was German newspaper company Axel Springer, which publishes mass-circulation tabloid Bild and national daily Die Welt. It cited “several people familiar with the situation.” Axel Springer denied the report.

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