Viacom in frame to bid for Pearson

Acquisitive US entertainment giant considered a 'good fit' with British media group

VIACOM, the US entertainment giant, has emerged as a potential bidder for Pearson, the diversified media group at the centre of takeover speculation.

Analysts believe the two companies have much in common. "Viacom and Pearson would make a tremendous fit," said Neil Blackley, the highly rated media analyst at American investment bank, Goldman Sachs.

"While Pearson has no video rental chain and Viacom does not own an investment bank, both have TV and educational publishing interests as well as theme parks."

With revenues of more than $11bn (pounds 7.2bn), Viacom is now the world's second largest media group after Time Warner. This follows a series of important acquisitions including the Paramount film studio, book publisher Simon & Schuster, the Blockbuster chain of video stores and music channel MTV.

Having sold cable and property assets to pay off debt, Viacom is thought to be back in expansionist mode, despite the abrupt departure last month of Frank Biondi, chief executive and mastermind of the spending spree. Viacom has also been linked with the possible pounds 5bn acquisition of Thorn- EMI, which is in the process of spinning off its music and retail division. A company spokesman in New York declined to comment.

Pearson, whose chairman is Lord Blakenham, is widely seen to be in the bid frame after reports last week that television and leisure group Granada, which recently landed hotels giant Forte after a bitter takeover battle, had last year considered offering pounds 9 per share, or pounds 5bn, for the owner of the Financial Times, Penguin books, Madame Tussauds and Thames, the television production company.

However, Granada is said to have walked away after failing to reach an agreement with the Cowdray family and Lazards, the merchant bank controlled by Pearson, which together ownabout 21 per cent of the group. Neither Pearson or Granada have commented on the report.

Some observers think Pearson's complicated share structure and family influence rule out a full bid. "Gerry Robinson [of Granada] has looked at it, and so has Rupert Murdoch. They both have concluded it is too hard to do, " said Jonathan Helliwell, media analyst at broker James Capel.

Mr Helliwell denied market reports that he had issued a note advising clients to take profits in Pearson. He said his recommendation remained a hold.

Buoyed by bid rumours and demerger talk, shares in Pearson have been strong performers so far this year, although they slipped 7p to 655p on Friday amid profit-taking.

Demerger speculation has centred on the possibility that Pearson might spin off its television division, headed by new main board member Greg Dyke, which has expanded rapidly to include Grundy Worldwide and SelecTV.

A separate listing for Pearson TV is said to have been discussed internally, though this suggestion was angrily denied by a company spokesman.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Arts and Entertainment
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)
newsBloomsbury unveils new covers for JK Rowling's wizarding series
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

1st Line Support Technician / Application Support

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider of web based m...

Team Secretary - (Client Development/Sales Team) - Wimbledon

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Secretary (Sales Team Support) - Mat...

Accountant / Assistant Management Accountant

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an Assistant Management Ac...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star