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Could Pearson WSJ Bid Break up Company?

That’s the hypothesis the Independent’s Stephen Foley puts forward in reporting about the bid to buy the Wall Street Journal by Pearson (parent company of Penguin.) For Dame Marjorie Scardino, the chief executive who once said that the Financial Times would be sold “over my dead body”, failing to make a move on the Journal may not simply mean a reversion back to the status quo. In the words of one analyst yesterday, this could be “double or quits”.

Unlike Newscorp, Pearson doesn’t have easy and available access to cash, so they need a partner (rumored to be GE.) And then there’s the issue of the FT, a competitor to the WSJ and sliding in profit value. Many of the most bullish analysts and investors believe it is only a matter of time before the company is broken up, releasing value from an auction of the Financial Times.

In the end, the biggest problem may be Pearson’s own stakeholders. First there are the FT journalists who may be resistant to a cost-cutting, job-slashing merger, undermining the point of doing a deal. And most important of all, the shareholders. One clue as to their view is that Pearson shares are down 3.6 per cent since the idea of a bid for the Journal surfaced over the weekend, with the decline accelerating yesterday.

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