Pearson weighs up New York listing

PEARSON, the media group, is considering obtaining a listing for its shares on the New York Stock Exchange later this year in an attempt to encourage share ownership among its employees in the United States, writes Peter Thal Larsen.

"We are looking at a New York listing more actively than we have done for some years," John Makinson, Pearson's finance director, said yesterday. "If we did go ahead it would be less for investor relation purposes than to expand employee share ownership."

Pearson's US employee base expanded massively last year when it bought Simon & Schuster's educational publishing division from Viacom, the media conglomerate, for $4.6bn.

The company has also been investing heavily in expanding the North American circulation of the Financial Times.

The news emerged as Pearson reported operating profits of pounds 389m for the year to December 1998, an increase of 19 per cent on sales of pounds 2.4bn. Excluding the effect of acquisitions, disposals and exchange rates, sales increased by just over 5 per cent, while underlying profits were up 8 per cent.

Marjorie Scardino, Pearson's chief executive, said the figures showed the effects of past investment and of the company concentrating on its larger businesses. She also set a target for the company to achieve double- digit earnings growth, most of which is likely to come from increased sales.

However, the results disappointed the City, which marked Pearson's shares down 85p to 1337p yesterday. Analysts said the company's organic growth was not enough to justify its share price. Pearson shares have doubled in value since Ms Scardino took the helm at the beginning of 1997.

Ms Scardino said the company would continue to invest in the Internet as a distribution platform for its products. "All our businesses have what you need to get eyeballs," she said. "They have brands and they have content."