National newspapers do not come up for sale very often, let alone the Financial Times, which last changed hands as long ago as 1957.
Accordingly, there has been enormous interest in the revered title’s sale by Pearson to Nikkei, the Japanese media business group. Enormous and feverish: the FT’s own website was, only an hour before the sale to Nikkei was confirmed, reporting that the putative buyer was Axel Springer, the German media group, whose print titles include Die Welt and Bild.
The FT has had a good few years. After riding out a decline in advertising following the financial crisis – the paper was heavily dependent on the ‘tombstones’ that investment banks publish following the completion of a major deal – the title has also successfully made the transition to digital.
Despite a collapse in print sales, the FT has built a strong digital business, with combined print and digital sales rising by more than 30 per cent during the last five years to 737,000.
So why is Pearson selling? Fairly straightforward, really.
As the world’s largest publisher of educational materials, it is not a natural owner of newspaper publishing assets, not least because the company’s management has been fully occupied in making the transition from print to digital in its core business at a time when, due to spending cuts in many parts of the world, education departments have been reducing their expenditure on learning materials like textbooks.
Accordingly, Pearson has been divesting non-education assets, such as the deal two years ago that saw it combine its Penguin book publishing business with that of rival Random House.
Moreover, in an era in which newspaper titles require constant ongoing investment and re-invention, Pearson has been convinced that the FT will flourish in the hands of a pure media company.
On tonight’s Ian King Live, we’ll be exploring all the angles on this huge media story, including an interview with John Fallon, the Pearson chief executive and Andrew Gowers, a former FT editor.
I’ve also been talking to Andy Bruce, chief executive of the motor dealer Lookers, about the ongoing success story that is the UK car manufacturing industry.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders reported today that the number of cars built in Britain in June rose by 5.4 per cent to 143,759, taking the total for the first six months of the year to 793,642, up 0.3 per cent on the same period last year making it the best six months for the industry since 2008.
Yet three-quarters of those cars are exported – and just one in six cars sold in Britain are actually made here. Mr Bruce has been telling me why.
And I’ve taken a trip out of the Gherkin to achingly trendy Hoxton where, in a converted train repair shop, Amazon is building an enormous new photographic studio for its fashion business. The 46,000 square foot facility is expected to play host to the shooting of more than half a million fashion photographs every year.
I’ve been finding out more from Sergio Bucher, vice president of Amazon Fashion.
All that, plus the latest from the markets, on Ian King Live at 6.30pm on Sky News. Hope you can join me.