UPDATE 1-GE, Pearson drop Dow Jones takeover pursuit

Thu Jun 21, 2007 1:11pm EDT

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NEW YORK, June 21 (Reuters) - General Electric Co. (GE.N) and Pearson Plc (PSON.L) said on Thursday they will not pursue a joint offer for publisher Dow Jones & Co. Inc. DJ.N, removing a potential challenge to a $5-billion bid by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. NWSa.N.

GE, the world's second-largest company by market capitalization, and Pearson, publisher of the Financial Times, said they had held exploratory talks over combining their financial news outlets with Dow Jones, home to the Wall Street Journal.

GE controls NBC Universal, which operates top U.S. business cable news channel CNBC.

"Following these discussions, GE and Pearson have decided not to pursue this combination," GE said in a statement. "Pearson and NBC Universal continue to discuss cooperative agreements between CNBC and the Financial Times Group."

Murdoch aims to compete with CNBC with a business news channel of his own, set to launch later this year.

A spokesman for the Bancroft family, which controls Dow Jones through its voting shares, had no immediate comment.

News Corp. declined comment.

Murdoch has bid $60 a share for Dow Jones, which has sought to encourage other potential suitors to make an offer.

No rival bids for the entire company have emerged, though MySpace co-founder Brad Greenspan has offered to buy a 25 percent stake.

Dow Jones shares fell 49 cents to $60.16 on the New York Stock Exchange. GE fell 14 cents to $38.65. News Corp.'s Class A shares fell 28 cents to $21.82. Pearson's shares fell 0.9 percent to about 831 pence on the London Stock Exchange.

(Additional reporting by Scott Malone in Boston and Jonathan Cable in London)

((Reporting by Robert MacMillan and Kenneth Li in New York, Reuters Messaging: rm://robert.macmillan.reuters.com@reuters.net; Telephone: +1 646-223-6180; editing by Deborah Cohen))

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