Will News Corp Purchase the Financial Times from Pearson? (NWS, PSO)

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Includes: NWS, PSO
by: John Bethel

I first started reading the Financial Times in 1991. A few times a year I had to fly to Kansas City for a client meeting and would pass through Atlanta when changing flights. I'd pick up the pink-colored FT at the Atlanta airport and read it on the plane and in my hotel room.

I was excited to see it because I had heard of the FT a few years before. I'd read that it was the best-written newspaper in the English language. And I found it was. Hands down.

In those days, the paper wasn't on newsstands in Richmond. And I never saw it in other airports I passed through with the exception of New York. Then Barnes & Noble came to town in the next year or so, followed by Borders, and they always stocked the FT. I continued enjoying it throughout the 90s and thought it was superior to even The Wall Street Journal. I still enjoy the FT and feel its weekend section, "Weekend FT," is better than the Journal's weekend edition.

But over the years, my eagerness to read the paper has dropped off. I think a paper should report the news as objectively as possible, yet I still want a paper with a point of view (even if that view is not shared by yours truly). Instead of having a uniquely British point of view, the FT seems to be written from the viewpoint of EU bureaucrats in Brussels. I may be wrong there, but so be it.

I wonder how relevant the publication is to business people in middle England and the former colonies.

Anyway, something isn't right. The paper hasn't been making as much as it should -- and it has even occasionally suffered loses in recent years. And now, as The Independent reported yesterday, Pearson is being pressured to sell the FT. [Pearson has an ADR that trades in the US (NYSE:PSO). Trading volume averages over 100,000 shares per day.]

I don't know what new ownership would mean. And I don't know that Rupert Murdoch's News Corp (NASDAQ:NWS) buying the paper would be a good thing. Sure, it would probably would be good financially for News Corp. Yet Murdoch (pictured above) has a reputation for "dumbing down" papers -- my understanding is that he has definitely dumbed down The Times of London. I'd hate to see a tabloid-like virus, however slight, infect the pages of the FT.

But maybe newspapers have to do that stuff to survive now. Either way, things aren't looking too pretty for the "Pink 'un" these days.

Afterthought: If Murdoch ever launches a FOX Business Channel, the FT could be an excellent provider of content. Much as the same way CNBC uses Dow Jones.