17 February 2020
Pearson has finally decided to sell the Financial Times after owning it for nearly 60 years. Photo: Reuters
Pearson has finally decided to sell the Financial Times after owning it for nearly 60 years. Photo: Reuters

Nikkei buys Financial Times for US$1.3 bln

Japanese media group Nikkei has agreed to buy the Financial Times, one of the world’s premier business newspapers, from Britain’s Pearson plc for US$1.3 billion, Reuters reported.

Nikkei beat Germany’s Axel Springer SE at the last minute to clinch the deal.

The FT itself reported hours earlier that Springer, publisher of Germany’s Bild and Die Welt newspapers, was the most likely buyer. 

The acquisition is the biggest by a Japanese media organisation and a coup for employee-owned Nikkei, after which the main Japanese stock market index, the Nikkei 225, is named.

The FT is an authoritative global newspaper that commands strong loyalty from its readers and was one of the first newspapers to successfully charge for access to its website.

The newspaper was established in 1884 and first printed on pink paper in 1893 to stand out from its rivals.

“I am extremely proud of teaming up with the Financial Times, one of the most prestigious news organisations in the world,” said Tsuneo Kita, chairman and group chief executive of Nikkei.

“We share the same journalistic values.”

The Nikkei newspaper, which has a circulation surpassing three million for its morning edition alone, enjoys a must-read reputation for financial and business news in Japan but has struggled to break out of its home market.

The paper, with its deep ties to corporate Japan, has also faced criticism for running earnings “previews”, which are considered to be leaks, days ahead of corporate results, at a time when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has been pushing for greater corporate transparency, Reuters said.

According to tweets from journalists who were addressed by the paper’s management, FT editor Lionel Barber told staff the deal “was not and is not a shotgun marriage”, saying there had been hours of conversation.

Reporters at the paper said there was some apprehension, as they knew very little about their new owner, but there was also relief they had not been bought by Bloomberg LP — another potential buyer — which could have resulted in duplication of staff roles and more potential job cuts.

FT chief executive John Fallon told reporters he believed that, like Pearson, the new owner had a commitment to the “fairness and accuracy of its reporting, and to the integrity and independence of its journalism”.

Pearson finally decided to sell the business daily as it expanded more into education.

The sale of the FT Group is expected to close during the fourth quarter and does not include its 50 percent stake in the Economist magazine or the London headquarters of the newspaper.

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