Japan Takes The FT: This Will Not End Well - Forbes
For many years the FT has been at the forefront among Anglophone news organizations in painting Japan as an economic basket case. What an irony ...
For many years the FT has been at the forefront among Anglophone news organizations in painting Japan as an economic basket case. What an irony it is, therefore, that the FT group is now being sold to Japan’s Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Nikkei) group.
The deal, which reportedly is worth $1.3 billion to Pearson, the FT‘s long-time London-based owner, raises many interesting questions. Why, for instance, isNikkei buying the FT, not the other way around? The two companies have worked together since at least as far back as the 1980s and throughout that time the British have been condescending towards the Japanese.
For anyone who really knows Japan, however, there is little mystery. To put it bluntly Japan remains a rising power whereas the United Kingdom continues in fast relative decline. This is most obvious in the two nations’ trade figures. Japan continues to earn large current account surpluses. Meanwhile on a percentage basis, the United Kingdom runs the largest current account deficits of any major nation (even larger than those of the United States). Almost right across the board in advanced manufacturing the Japanese have now replaced their once formidable American and British rivals as world leaders. Even China depends crucially on Japan’s sophisticated materials, high-tech components, and advanced production goods. By comparison Chinese manufacturers source virtually nothing from the United States or the United Kingdom.
All this brings to mind the remark of Willie Sutton when he was asked why he robbed banks: that’s where the money is. British companies sell out to Japanese ones, not the other way around, because Japan is where the money is.
The larger issue here is that a free press in an Anglophone sense does not exist in Japan. The Japanese media are carefully controlled organs of a ferociously nationalistic Japanese bureaucracy. Although they sometimes appear to display independence, this is more apparent than real. When they go after corporate scandals, for instance, this is rarely driven by Anglophone ideas of free inquiry. Rather it is inspired by decisions in the higher bureaucracy to make an example of individuals and businesses that are perceived to have gotten too big for their boots.
In a word, a key problem going forward will be which nation the FT speaks for. FT editors will no doubt persist in the fiction that they are free agents in the British tradition – but in the long run any hopes they might harbor that they can continue to cover East Asia, for instance, on an impartial basis will be dashed. Willy nilly the FT seems destined to become just another organ of Japanese power.
Profit Is Small Relative to SalesShare on Twitter
In 2014, Nikkei posted net profit of 10.3 billion yen, or about $83 million, on revenue of 301 billion yen. Revenue was up 4.4% but net profit was down 10%. The Nikkei’s purchase of the FT, in other words, is costing it the equivalent of about 16 years of net profit.
Until Now, a Minor Player OverseasShare on Twitter
The company publishes the Nikkei Asian Review, a weekly magazine focusing on Asia, and puts out some content in English. But until the announcement Thursday of its purchase of the Financial Times, the Nikkei, like most other Japanese media organizations, had a relatively small presence outside Japan.
It's Japan's Top Business NewspaperShare on Twitter
Nikkei Inc.’s flagship morning daily had circulation of 2.77 million in the first half of 2014, according to Japan Audit Bureau of Circulations figures cited by the Yomiuri newspaper. (The bureau doesn’t release its numbers to the public.) That falls behind Japan’s top general-interest newspapers—the Yomiuri had 9.56 million circulation in the same period and the Asahi had 7.43 million—but the Nikkei’s reach among corporate executives is unparalleled.
Pearson Inks Deal to Sell FT to Nikkei
日經新聞 Nikkei 將收買英國金融時報（FT）。日本報紙將何去何從？
據《衛報》（The Guardian）23日的報導，英國培生出版集團（Pearson plc）23日的聲明，在全球財經新聞執牛耳的《金融時報》（Financial Times）將出售，並未透露買主身分，目前僅得知為一「全球數位新聞公司」（global digital news company），培生集團聲明中強調，「所有細節仍將討論」。據悉，這場交易的金額為10億英鎊（約新台幣480億元），其實，《金融時報》自2013年即傳聞將出售，但在前高層史卡迪諾（Marjorie Scardino）不惜說出「想都別想」（over my dead body）的強力反對之下，傳言暫告停歇。史卡迪諾2年前交棒給法倫（John Fallon），法倫當時也信誓旦旦的說不會出售《金融時報》，「是培生集團極具價值的公司」，言猶在耳，23日即傳出拋售的消息。
Financial Times sale: Pearson in 'advanced discussions' with buyer
Publisher could earn as much as £1bn from sale of business newspaper
Financial Times: Pearson has confirmed it is holding talks on a sale. Photograph: Richard Levine/Demotix/Corbis
John Plunkett and Jane Martinson
Thursday 23 July 2015 11.13 BST
Pearson is in “advanced discussions” over a sale of the Financial Times, it said on Thursday.
Reuters said the London-based FTSE 100 company had decided to sell FT Group to an unnamed global digital news company, according to a person familiar with the deal.
The sale of the global financial newspaper, which was first published in 1888, could net Pearson as much as £1bn.
In a statement, Pearson said: “Pearson notes recent press speculation and confirms that it is in advanced discussions regarding the potential disposal of FT Group although there is no certainty that the discussions will lead to a transaction.
“A further announcement will be made if and when appropriate.”
Lionel Barber: ‘It’s adapt or die frankly and that’s what we’re doing’
otential buyers previously linked to a move for the Financial Times include Axel Springer, Thomson Reuters and Bloomberg.
On his return to running his eponymous financial information company Mike Bloomberg replaced his long-time editorial chief Matt Winckler with John Micklethwait, the erudite former editor of the Economist. The appointment immediately revived rumours of a bid for the FT.
Media companies are notoriously difficult to value especially when they are part of larger organisations. One senior banker said speculation that the FT Group could be worth as much as £1.5bn was due to the fact that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. Rupert Murdoch paid well above expectations, twice as much as its estimated worth at the time, when he bought Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal for $5bn in 2007.Other potential buyers could include a billionaire keen to own a global brand such as the Financial Times.
A recent note valued the FT at between £750m and £1bn, with the FT worth £500m and the biggest unknown the worth of the 50% stake in the Economist. One media executive called it “the real prize”. A sale of the whole unit might not trigger a change of ownership clause in the Economist.
A bid by Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters would be likely to result in significant cost cuts, especially among editorial. Axel Springer employs 14,000 staff across several digital platforms with its biggest newspaper the flagship German tabloid Bild. Last year it made €3bn in revenues and earnings of €507m.
One possibility would be for Pearson to negotiate a three-year joint venture which would result in the eventual sale of the FT Group.
Pearson has long been said to have been considering a sale of the title, which is edited by Lionel Barber.
Its former chief executive Marjorie Scardino once said the paper would be sold “over my dead body”. But she has since been succeeded by John Fallon, who took up the post two years ago.
The FT Group also includes a 50% stake in the Economist.After the last round of sale rumours in 2013, Fallon said the paper was “not for sale” and described the FT as a “valued and valuable part of Pearson”.
Pearson is a world leader in educational publishing, from which it makes the bulk of its revenues. It has owned the Financial Times for nearly 60 years.
Its shares were up 3% in early trading on Thursday to 1,237p.
The FT has a global print and digital circulation of 720,000, according to the company’s latest interim results in February this year, with digital readers accounting for 70% of the paper’s total paying audience.
Pearson said FT profits had tripled year on year, but the group does not break out the paper’s earnings from the wider FT Group.
The FT Group is part of Pearson Professional which recorded adjusted operating profit of £106m last year on turnover of £1.2bn.
In the last decade its print circulation has halved but its digital subscriber base has grown exponentially, up 21% year on year to 504,000 in the latest figures.
Barber, an FT veteran of 30 years’ standing, has been the paper’s editor since 2005.
A digital pioneer since he introduced a metered paywall on the paper’s website, he has nevertheless said there is plenty of life in the print product, unveiling a new-look paper last year.
In an interview last September Barber said: “I’ve got probably one of the most privileged positions in journalism and I don’t plan to give that up any time soon.”