Michael Bloomberg Mulling Bid for Financial Times Group (Report)

4:34 AM PST 12/10/2012 by Georg Szalai
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One analyst estimates the value of the newspaper at $750 million and the whole group at $1.35 billion, but owner Pearson has not put it on the auction block so far.

New York mayor Michael Bloomberg is the latest to consider a bid for the Financial Times Group, via privately-held financial news provider Bloomberg L.P., if current owner Pearson puts it up for sale, the New York Times reported.

Bloomberg has been an avid reader of the Financial Times newspaper and The Economist, in which the company owns a 50 percent stake, the NY Times said.

U.K.-based Pearson has continued to deny that the Financial Times is for sale, even though Thomson Reuters has also been named as a possible suitor.

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Bloomberg is known to be a dedicated newspaper reader, but to consider them a weak investment amid readers' continuing move to digital platforms. However, the NY Times said Bloomberg is considering possible benefits of owning the FT to Bloomberg's news and news terminal business. The paper's big reach in Asia could also be attractive.

The privately held company already bought Businessweek magazine in 2009.

Pearson does not disclose financials for the Financial Times, but it is widely believed to lose money. Just last week, it closed its German edition, Financial Times Deutschland, which made a splash in the country's media scene, but never turned a profit in 12 years. German media house Gruner + Jahr had acquired a 50 percent stake in 2008.

UBS analyst Alastair Reid said Monday he values the FT newspaper at $750 million and the FT Group at $1.35 billion. "A potential sale and share buyback at our valuation would imply low to mid single digit consensus earnings per share upgrades and create a more focused education business as the recent merger of Penguin with Random House has also done," he said.

He argued that despite denials of a possible sale, "these types of stories may continue regardless" of an imminent change in CEO and the recent departure of the head of the FT Group.

The NY Times story didn't say whether Bloomberg had reached out to Pearson.

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In October, Bloomberg visited the London headquarters of the Financial Times, which is near his Bloomberg L.P.'s London building, the NY Times said, citing several people close to Bloomberg. When an editor asked if he could buy the paper, he quipped, "I buy it every day," they said. "It's the only paper I'd buy," the paper said he has told one associate.

According to the NY Times, Bloomberg L.P. had put together an assessment of whether The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times or The Financial Times could potentially become available, with only the FT identified as a potential acquisition target. Bloomberg executives have only talked about a possible bid in theoretical terms as the New York mayor controls a 90 percent in the company and would have to make the final call.

A Pearson spokesman reiterated that the company "has not initiated any sort of sale process for The Financial Times and has no plans to do so." 

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