Profits at Pearson tumble to pounds 50.5m

Pearson, the media and information company, announced disappointing interim figures yesterday, but said it would continue to pursue opportunities in multi-media.

Lord Blakenham, chairman, said the figures underlined the costs of a rapid evolution toward becoming a media group, and added that restructuring had slowed down the rate of profit growth.

Pre-tax profits were down 27 per cent to pounds 50.5m like for like in the first half, on turnover up 20 per cent to pounds 780.9m. The company blamed restructuring charges, poor trading conditions in educational publishing and a lower-than-expected contribution from Mindscape, the CD-Rom software company on which Pearson is pinning much of its multi-media hopes.

Restructuring at the FT group, which publishes the Financial Times, also hit operating performance in the first half. The closure of the FT's London print works cost pounds 6.5m in redundancy payments; another pounds 29m was charged as a non-operational item.

James Joll, finance director, warned that peformance in the second half was difficult to predict, particularly in the eduational market in the US. "In this market, lead times have become shorter and consumers are less predictable. It is difficult to establish a trend."

Penguin, the publisher, had what Lord Blakenham called a "roller-coaster ride," but a sales promotion linked to the company's 60th anniversary was expected to bolster operations.

The television side, including both Grundy Worldwide and Thames Television, generated operating profits of pounds 12.3m, up from pounds 8.8m a year earlier. Another pounds 25.1m came from Pearson's stake in BSkyB, most of which the company intends to sell through a secondary offering next month.

Comment, page 17

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