Optimism at Pearson as figures strengthen

Penguin books and Financial Times publisher Pearson said it was more optimistic about prospects for the rest of the year yesterday after seeing further strong growth from digital businesses and developing markets.

The group, which is a major supplier of text books in the united States, reported a six per cent rise in half-year sales to £2.4bn while

underlying profits were 20 per cent higher at £208m in the six months to June 30.

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Sign up to our Business newsletter

The improvement benefited from a 10 per cent rise in profits at FT group, although Penguin’s adjusted operating profits were broadly flat at £42m amid strong comparisons with a year earlier and “significant retail disruption”, including the bankruptcy of Borders in the US.

However, it added that ebook sales grew 128 per cent in the period and now represent 14 per cent of Penguin revenues worldwide.

Across Pearson’s education division, sales rose six per cent to £1.75bn and operating profits lifted 30 per cent on a headline basis to £135m. This was despite a slower year for the US education publishing industry and “exceptionally” strong figures in 2010.

Upgrading the group’s guidance for the full year, Pearson chief executive Marjorie Scardino said she was encouraged by current trading momentum, particularly in digital businesses and emerging markets.

She added: “Though market conditions are anything but easy, we are sufficiently encouraged by our start to the year to raise both

our guidance and our dividend.”

The interim dividend announced yesterday is up eight per cent at 14p a share.