Pearson in talks to sell 'FT Deutschland' stake

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The Independent Online

Pearson is in talks to sell its stake in FT Deutschland, the German-language version of its Financial Times newspaper, as the publishing company continues to refocus the business on its core newspaper operation and moving more information online.

Speculation that Pearson may look to exit its loss-making German newspaper investment has been mounting over recent weeks after the UK media company, which also owns the Penguin and Puffin book publishers, sold off its French newspaper Les Echos to LVMH, the luxury goods company. Pearson holds a 50 per cent stake in FT Deutschland, the only non-English language paper carried under the FT brand, with the remaining half owned by the German publisher Gruner & Jahr.

Pearson refused to comment on its plans for FT Deutschland. However, reports emanating from Germany said the management of Spiegel, the magazine group that publishes the Der Spiegel national title, has told its staff that it had opened talks with Pearson regarding an acquisition of its stake in FT Deutschland. Spiegel employees control 50 per cent of the German media company's shares and have an input into its strategy. A sale could be completed within weeks if Spiegel employees give the acquisition the green light.

Analysts were not surprised that Pearson has moved to sell the newspaper, but struggled to put a value on the asset as the company does not split out the unit's financial performance. The German newspaper's circulation rose 2 per cent to 105,000 in the first half of the year, but analysts said that it is unclear how many paid-for subscriptions the title has. Valuing the asset is also complicated by uncertainty over whether the newspaper will be allowed to use the FT brand and whether it will continue to source content from the wider FT Group.

The FT Deutschland newspaper was launched in 1999 and was the first national title to be established in 40 years in Germany.

Meanwhile, shares in Mecom, the publishing company led by David Montgomery, fell nearly 5 per cent after the regional publisher reported disappointing results in Denmark because of competition from freesheet newspapers and pressure in the property advertising market.

Mr Montgomery, previously chief executive of the Mirror Group, said that the Danish disappointment was more than offset across the company's other operations with underlying profit growing nearly 20 per cent in the first half of the year.

Mr Montgomery said that he remains confident that Mecom will complete its acquisition of the Dutch publisher Wegener, in which it holds a near 35 per cent stake.