Pearson parts company with The Economist magazine

The sale forms part of major restructuring at Pearson, which wants to focus solely on its education publishing business.
The sale forms part of major restructuring at Pearson, which wants to focus solely on its education publishing business.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

LONDON (AFP) - British publishing company Pearson on Wednesday said it had agreed to sell its 50 per cent stake in The Economist Group, owner of prestigious magazine The Economist.

The share is being sold for £469 million (S$1.01 billion) split between The Economist Group itself and Italian investment firm Exor, which is controlled by the Agnelli family, Pearson said in a statement.

Exor is meanwhile raising its stake to 43.4 per cent from 4.7 per cent, it said in a separate statement.

"Exor has agreed to purchase 27.8 per cent of The Economist Group's ordinary shares for consideration of £227.5 million and all of the B special shares for consideration of £59.5 million from Pearson," the British publisher said.

"Pearson's remaining ordinary shares will be repurchased by The Economist Group for a total consideration of £182 million."

The sale forms part of major restructuring at Pearson, which wants to focus solely on its education publishing business.

It last month announced plans to sell The Economist Group, which includes also Economist.com and the Economist Intelligence Unit, as it revealed also a deal to sell the Financial Times newspaper to Japanese digital media group Nikkei.

"Pearson is now 100 per cent focused on our global education strategy," its chief executive John Fallon said in Wednesday's statement.

"The world of education is changing rapidly and we see great opportunity to grow our business through increasing access to high quality learning globally." Pearson described The Economist as "one of the world's leading weekly business and current affairs publications with a circulation of around 1.6 million".

Exor chairman and chief executive John Elkann said the company he runs "have always admired the editorial integrity and thoroughly global outlook that are the hallmarks of The Economist's success".

He added: "Our strong belief in the merits of this investment is all the greater given The Economist's decision to join us, by investing in its own shares, which is a sign of its confidence in the Group's exciting and profitable future.

"Together we are convinced of the huge potential that still lies ahead and particularly in The Economist's ability to seize the many development opportunities linked to the digitisation of the media industry."

On its website, The Economist magazine said the transaction "will include amendments to the Group's articles, which will safeguard the independence of the company and crucially, the editorial independence of The Economist".