FT gains market share; says crisis plays to strengths

Fri Mar 27, 2009 9:50am EDT

By Georgina Prodhan

LONDON, March 27 (Reuters) - The Financial Times is gaining market share in readership and advertising as the global economic crisis plays to its strengths, its chief executive says, but no increase in headcount should be expected this year.

Online subscriptions are growing with revenues up about 20 percent in February, and the FT's venture into video is paying for itself many times over, said John Ridding, who runs the newspaper and its online business, part of British publishing group Pearson (PSON.L).

"This story, it's our story," he said, referring to the recession gripping much of the world. "What's going on out there is absolutely in our zone."

Ridding declined to comment in detail on expected staffing levels. The FT is currently cutting about 5 percent of its staff, or 80 jobs, across its global operations. It has offered staff options to work a shorter week and take extended leave.

He said only that staff numbers, which rose in 2008, were unlikely to do so again this year. "We've got to be pretty careful this year... because it's tough and there's not much visibility, so I wouldn't expect them to."

Ridding did not rule out further increases in the price of the FT newspaper, which currently costs 1.80 pounds ($2.60) for the weekday edition and 2.30 pounds at weekends. The company has recently raised prices for online subscriptions.

"People should be confident about charging for quality journalism, and we are," he said. "We're always looking at our pricing," he added.

Asked whether the FT, had received any takeover approaches, Ridding replied: "No."

He said Pearson, which also publishes educational texts and Penguin Books, had been very supportive of the FT's ventures into global expansion and digital products.

($1=.6921 pounds)

(Editing by Greg Mahlich)

((georgina.prodhan@thomsonreuters.com; +4420 7542 7954; Reuters Messaging georgina.prodhan.reuters.com@reuters.net)) Keywords: FINANCIALTIMES/

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