Pearson to sell FT to global media company: Reuters

British publisher Pearson has decided to sell the Financial Times to a “global, digital news company” after owning the business newspaper for nearly 60 years, a person familiar with the deal said on Thursday.

Pearson, which has become the world’s leading education provider, later confirmed that it was in advanced discussions regarding a potential disposal of FT group, which includes the pink-paged paper, its website and its share in the Economist, but declined to provide further details.

Analysts and investors have long expected the 171-year-old Pearson to sell the FT at some point, after it changed strategy to focus on education.

Recent media reports have suggested potential buyers could include Bloomberg, German newspaper publisher Axel Springer and Thomson Reuters . A separate person familiar with the situation had told Reuters that Springer was working on a deal for the paper.

Thomson Reuters and Bloomberg declined to comment while Springer did not return calls.

Shares in Pearson were up 2.2 percent in mid-morning trading. The group is due to report results on Friday but could confirm the buyer later on Thursday.

While media groups around the world have been buffeted by the move to online publishing and the collapse of advertising markets during the financial downturn, the FT has benefited from a loyal customer base that is willing to pay for access to the newspaper and website.

Pearson, which in recent years has disposed of other assets and put its Penguin book publisher into a joint venture with Random House, believes that despite the relative stability of the paper, the time is right for it to focus solely on education, the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Previous reports from other news organizations have suggested the title could fetch around 1 billion pounds, however analysts believe that is optimistic.