Pearson sells Mergermarket to focus on education business

LONDON Fri Nov 29, 2013 10:09am EST

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LONDON (Reuters) - British media and education group Pearson has agreed to sell its Mergermarket news service for 382 million pounds ($624 million), to invest in its global education business.

The sale to funds advised by private equity group BC Partners was at a higher price than the 300 to 360 million pounds banking sources had expected.

Pearson Chief Executive John Fallon is reorganizing the company to concentrate on fast-growing economies and digital services, rather than Europe and North America, where austerity measures have hit public spending.

The strategy has increased speculation Fallon will eventually sell the Financial Times. However, Pearson has said it intends to hang on to the newspaper, which it believes has a better fit with the overall group.

Pearson put subscription-based Mergermarket, which covers mergers and acquisitions news, up for sale in July.

"(Mergermarket) has flourished under Pearson's ownership but it is not part of Pearson's strategy in global education," Pearson Chief Executive John Fallon said on Friday.

Mergermarket reported revenue of 100 million pounds and operating income of 25 million pounds in 2012.

Analysts at Citi said Pearson had been a good seller of assets, with proceeds typically recycled into faster-growing areas such as digital and education services in developed and emerging markets.

"In as far as the Mergermarket sale is a continuation of this process - and the valuation looks well supported - we view it as a positive catalyst," they said. Citi has a 'neutral' rating on Pearson shares.

HSBC advised BC Partners on the Mergermarket deal, which is expected to close by the end of the first quarter in 2014. JP Morgan advised Pearson.

(Reporting by Kate Holton and Anjuli Davies; Editing by Erica Billingham)

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