Pearson’s Les Echos Sale Fuels FT/DJ Speculation

Pearson’s likely sale this week of French newspaper Les Echos to billionaire Bernard Arnault has fueled speculation on whether its Financial Times will go the same way. A strike at the leading Parisian business daily was called off Wednesday afternoon despite journalists remaining unsatisfied on responses to their calls to maintain editorial independence if Les Echos is off-loaded. Their action may be one manifestation of analysts’ predictions Pearson could cut back on journalists to fund a joint GE-Pearson bid for Dow Jones.

The Scotsman: “Marjorie Scardino, Pearson’s chief executive, has always said she is committed to the FT, but if Les Echos does go down the slipway into the arms of Bernard Arnault, it would be logical to wonder if there has been a sea-change in the group’s thinking of what now constitutes global strategic assets. Pearson has refocused itself on educational publishing in recent years. Is the group finally headed for the newspaper exit?

The Independent: “The FT is a relatively small contributor to revenues at Pearson, which has focused in recent years on the business of academic publishing. It is an even smaller, and occasional, contributor to group profits. Many shareholders have grown to see the FT Group as non-core, even if Dame Scardino has not. They had hoped that the FT would go the same way as Les Echos.” Numis analyst Paul Richards tells The Indie it’s “double or quits” for Pearson — indeed, if it can’t scoop up the Wall Street Journal in its DJ bid, and if News Corp wins, the question is whether it will have the stomach for a trademark price-war with Rupert Murdoch.