Pearson lifts forecast as it books 7 per cent sales rise

Pearson, the publisher behind Penguin Books and The Financial Times, upgraded its profits forecast for a second time this year after a strong performance across all of its businesses.

The company's group sales rose by 7 per cent in the first nine months of the year, while profits were up 15 per cent. The winter quarter was a "key selling season in education and consumer publishing", the company said as it forecast that earnings per share would be 10 per cent higher than in 2009, compared with its previous estimate of a 7 per cent increase.

Revenues at Pearson's education division climbed by 8 per cent, with strong growth in its US college business and in its market share in American schools. It is continuing to move its operations away from book publishing to learning technology and services.

Pearson said the market for physical books may have been "tough" this year but Penguin had offset this with a strong line-up of releases including Paul Hoffman's The Left Hand Of God and The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry. It also pointed to rapid growth in sales of electronic books for devices such as the Apple iPad, which had risen threefold with 16,500 titles now available.

Pearson's Christmas line-up of new titles includes works by Tom Clancy, Patricia Cornwell, Michael McIntyre and Jamie Oliver.

Its subsidiary FT Group, which publishes The Financial Times, had another solid quarter, with sales up 11 per cent. It has been promoting the paper's digital content, which led to subscriptions rising by 50 per cent in the first nine months, to 180,000.

Alastair Reed, an analyst at UBS, said he expected Pearson to beat guidance when it reported full-year numbers. "[The longer term] is also attractive with emerging markets expansion and growth in leadership in digital learning," he said.