GE, Pearson won't bid for Dow Jones


NEW YORK -- General Electric, its NBC Universal entertainment arm and Financial Times owner Pearson will not pursue an acquisition of Wall Street Journal owner Dow Jones & Co., the companies said Thursday.

The news came after Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. said earlier in the day that it intends to explore strategic options for its News Outdoor Group, which sources suggested could lead to a sale that would raise further cash for a Dow Jones deal. News Corp. recently made a $5 billion takeover bid for the company.

GE and NBC Uni are "always evaluating opportunities to enhance our businesses and shareowner value, particularly when they involve superior global brands such as CNBC, the Financial Times Group and Dow Jones," GE said in a statement, also confirming for the first time that the conglomerate and its CNBC network "recently held exploratory discussions with Pearson regarding a possible combination of these properties."

However, the two parties "have decided not to pursue this combination," GE said, adding that Pearson and NBC Uni "continue to discuss cooperative agreements between CNBC and the Financial Times Group."

The Journal and CNBC have a content deal that runs for a few more years.

Pearson on Thursday released a very similar statement.

The decision not to go after Dow Jones eliminated one potential key challenger for News Corp.'s takeover play.

Meanwhile, the media giant said Thursday it has hired Goldman Sachs International to help it explore options for News Outdoor, adding those include an expansion of the existing shareholder group through new strategic and private equity partners.

News Corp. owns a clear but unspecified majority stake in Moscow-based News Outdoor, which has a strong presence and Russia and Eastern Europe, a spokesman confirmed.

Sources suggested a sale of the outdoor group was most likely as News Corp. is looking to further strengthen its balance sheet, raise cash for its Dow Jones offer and move capital into growth areas. They also said that News Corp. doesn't have the scale in the outdoor business to make it a core asset.

One source put the potential overall price tag of the outdoor business at $2 billion. Observers believe outdoor giants, such as JCDecaux and private equity groups will kick the tires on the unit.