TV, publishing boost Pearson profits

Pretax profits up 13%

LONDON — British media group Pearson delivered a 13% rise in pre-tax profits to £286 million ($472 million) last year, despite startup losses from the U.K.’s Channel 5 and adverse exchange rates which significantly dented revenues.

Gross sales were up 5% to $3.78 billion across Pearson’s four main businesses — the Financial Times, education publishing, entertainment and investment banking.

The entertainment division, which includes Pearson TV and the Penguin publishing empire, was the group’s star performer, posting a 93% rise in operating profits to $186 million, and a 31% increase in sales to $1.74 billion.

That big leap was substantially aided by the acquisition of U.S. publisher Putnam Berkley, which helped Penguin to more than double its profits.

It also reflected the turnaround at consumer software publisher Mindscape, which reported a $2.7 million profit after losing $76 million in 1996. This enabled Pearson to sell Mindscape last week to the Learning Co. for $150 million, a loss of $350 million on the price paid by Pearson for the California-based company four years ago.

“A year ago we could not have sold this business for anything,” Pearson chief exec Marjorie Scardino commented.

Pearson TV also had a strong year, which included the acquisition of “Baywatch” producer All American TV.

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