In a development that comes after a German firm was reportedly close to reaching a deal to buy the Financial Times Group from the Pearson publishing company, the Financial Times will instead be bought by Japanese media company Nikkei, for 844 million pounds ($1.3 billion) in cash.
Earlier Thursday, the Financial Times itself had reported that the newspaper’s publisher was on the verge of being sold to German media group Alex Springer. Other reports had suggested that Bloomberg or Thomson Reuters were potential buyers.
Nikkei currently uses London as the editorial headquarters for its operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. With a history extending back into the late 1800s, the corporation’s holdings include several newspaper companies along with eight data-services firms and several TV broadcasters.
Tsuneo Kita, the chairman and CEO of Nikkei, says:
“Our motto of providing high-quality reporting on economic and other news, while maintaining fairness and impartiality, is very close to that of the FT. We share the same journalistic values. Together, we will strive to contribute to the development of the global economy.”
The Financial Times is widely seen as both a trophy — similar to The Washington Post, which Amazon entrepreneur Jeff Bezos bought for $250 million in 2013 — and as a successful enterprise that has built strong circulation and subscription numbers, both in print and online. It currently has hundreds of thousands of digital subscribers, for instance.
According to Pearson, the newspaper’s “total circulation across print and digital rose more than 30 percent over the last five years to 737,000, with digital circulation growing to represent 70 percent of the total, from 24 percent, and mobile driving almost half of all traffic.”
Pearson says it wants to focus its attention on its education publishing and testing business, a sector in which it’s a world leader.
“Pearson has been a proud proprietor of the FT for nearly 60 years,” CEO John Fallon says. “But we’ve reached an inflection point in media, driven by the explosive growth of mobile and social. In this new environment, the best way to ensure the FT’s journalistic and commercial success is for it to be part of a global, digital news company.”
Pearson says it “will now be 100 percent focused on our global education strategy.” But the company isn’t leaving the news industry altogether: the deal with Nikkei does not include its 50 percent stake in The Economist Group.
As Reuters reported this morning, a final sale of the Financial Times would end “years of speculation as to whether the 171-year-old Pearson would sell the FT, a so-called ‘trophy asset’ which was first printed on pink paper in 1893 in order to stand out from rival titles.”