Financial Times starts Middle East edition

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Financial Times plans to start a Middle East edition to serve what it sees as a growing demand for business news in the Gulf states and other parts of the region.

The paper, which will be the pink-sheeted British business daily’s fifth edition, is part of Pearson PLC’s international expansion strategy for the Times. The first copies will be available on Tuesday, April 29.

“The economic dynamism of the region is striking,” Financial Times Chief Executive John Ridding said in an interview with Reuters on Saturday. “It’s not just the rate of growth, it’s the nature of growth.”

“Unlike the previous sort of oil booms, I think what we’re seeing this time is a substantial investment in the foundations of sustainable economic development, infrastructure and education,” Ridding said.

The market features a growing number of foreign companies as well as expatriates working in the area who are looking for important business news, Ridding said, particularly as the Gulf economy is booming on high oil prices.

The English-language edition’s editorial staff will be based in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The paper will be produced in London and printed in Dubai.

The FT publishes its other editions in Britain, Asia, the United States and continental Europe. It also is starting a Chinese-language magazine this year to target China’s increasingly affluent professionals, and is reportedly starting a new daily business newspaper in India with local partner Network 18 Media & Investments Ltd.

Ridding declined to comment on the FT’s India plans.

The Middle East paper will include extra pages twice a week that are dedicated to Gulf business and finance, Ridding said. Among other plans for local coverage will be more stories about investments in the region, he also said.

The FT also is looking at other possible markets in the region, including Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia, he said.

He would not say how many copies would be printed daily. The U.S. edition, the paper’s largest, has a circulation of about 150,000.

The debut of the FT comes shortly after the Abu Dhabi Media Co-backed newspaper The National, was launched in the United Arab Emirates. In a recent interview with Reuters, that paper’s editor, Martin Newland, said there is plenty of room for multiple publishers.

One area of concern for some news outlets is reporting news that may reflect criticism of government policies. National newspapers there tend to not publish strong criticism of the government.

“We publish in a very large number of countries with different laws and rules, but our editorial team always reports the news as it sees it, in an unbiased and independent way,” Ridding said.

Editing by Richard Chang