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Pearson FD says wary of any Murdoch push in Europe
BARCELONA Nov 14 (Reuters) - Pearson Plc, the London-based publisher of the Financial Times, said a Rupert Murdoch-controlled Dow Jones & Co Inc DJ.N could be a threat in Europe but might provide a boost to the FT in the United States.
"News Corp make a number of comments about where they are taking their business and some of them are clearly things that we will watch very carefully and could be threatening to us; some of them I think may be opportunities for us," Pearson (PSON.L) Finance Director Robin Freestone said.
Freestone made his comments during a Morgan Stanley Media, Telecoms and Technology conference.
Pearson, the world's largest education publisher, recently adopted a new online business model, partly opening up free access to its Financial Times newspaper site.
News Corp NWSa.N President Peter Chernin was quoted in a Scottish newspaper interview in late September as saying the company would "crush" the Financial Times after the Dow deal.
Murdoch, who chairs News Corp, said on Tuesday he planned to boost subscribers to Dow's Wall Street Journal wsj.com Web site more than tenfold by making access free. The site is one of the Internet's most successful subscription businesses.
Should the Journal become free and pursue a more generalist route in the United States, making it more of a competitor for the New York Times (NYT.N) then "that takes the newspaper out of our space, frankly," said Freestone.
"We will remain a high-end niche product focused on the business community and we will continue to charge for ft.com."
The Murdoch threat depends on how much gets spent, he added.
"If obviously a lot of money is spent investing in rolling out a continental edition and a national edition of the paper that will certainly be into our market space and we would have to watch that very carefully," Freestone said.
The finance director said the pink-paper Financial Times had increased circulation after cover price increases, showing that business-focused consumers do pay for quality analysis.
The Financial Times has often been cited by analysts as a non-core asset for Pearson, which is primarily an educational publisher. The company also publishes the weekly Economist magazine and owns Penguin books.
Freestone said that since 2002 Pearson had raised $3.4 billion from disposals and spent $2.8 billion.
"We have been consistently evolving over time and we expect that to continue in future. We are pretty comfortable with the assets we have got but not complacent about it," he added.
News Corp, which also owns the 20th Century Fox movie studio and MySpace Internet social network, expects to close its deal to buy Dow Jones for $5.6 billion next month. (Editing by Quentin Bryar)
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