Pearson's new image modelled on data provision

MATHEW HORSMAN

True to its new vocation as a media and entertainment conglomerate, Pearson yesterday announced that it is paying $201m for a US financial data services company and will spend $30m building a branch of Madame Tussaud's in Times Square.

The purchase of Interactive Data Corporation from Dun & Bradstreet, the US financial information company, gives Pearson's Financial Times Group a leading role in the provision of international pricing and financial information to US fund managers.

The US business is a "good fit with Pearson's UK business," Chris Munro, analyst at Hoare Govett, said. The FT Group, which brings together Pearson's main financial data services interests, including the Financial Times, already operates FT Extel, a supplier of financial information to City institutions.

"The two services [IDC and FT Extel] are similar in profile as far the client base is concerned," Stuart Clark, business director of FT Extel, said.

"Both have big customer bases with thousands of organisations as clients."

The FT Group has also entered a five-year agreement with Moody's Investors Service, a Dun & Bradstreet subsidiary, to jointly develop a global database on quoted companies. Pearson sees this as an important step in providing financial information to clients throughout the world.

Analysts said the acquisition was likely to be earnings neutral, on the strength of firm growth forecasts for the current year. Last year, IDC generated operating profits of $13.6m in 1994, up from $10.8m a year earlier. Revenues last year were $66.8m.

The plans for a new Madame Tussaud's are less detailed at this stage, the company said. But the huge profits it derives from its two wax museums in London and Amsterdam provided an obvious incentive to expand.

A long-time magnet for prostitutes and pornography seekers, Times Square is slowly being transformed into a mid-Manhattan retail, hotel and entertainment centre anchored by the theatres of Broadway.

Pearson has signed a memorandum of understanding with the City and State of New York, which have been leading the urban renewal project. The new museum will be on 42nd Street, in a five-floor complex forming part of an entertainment centre shared by companies such as Disney. It is due to open in 1998.

The Tussaud Group, which brings together Pearson's seven theme parks, said the new museum might attract as many as two million customers a year.

It is also taking advantage of the green-site nature of its New York location to offer "high-tech" attractions involving computer-generated figures.

According to the company's figures, US nationals are the leading non- UK visitors to Madame Tussaud's in Marylebone Road. The museum attracted 2.6m last year.

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