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Pearson Sales Downgraded

Forbes reports that shares in Pearson Group, parent company of Penguin, plummeted to an early low of 734 pence ($14.60) in London Wednesday morning, after Deutsche Bank downgraded the stock to “Hold” from “Buy,” cutting its price target on the stock to 915 pence ($18.20) from 930 pence ($18.50). By market close, the shares had climbed back up to 753.50 pence ($15.03), a slight gain of 3.50 pence (7 cents), or 0.5%. The reasons for the downgrade hinged on a difficult outlook for both the “attractive” side of Pearson, namely its professional education business, and the “unattractive” publishing arm including Penguin and the Financial Times.

“I think it’s a little bit early to be worried about that,” said Sam Hart, analyst with Charles Stanley. He added that the outlook for the business was “pretty good,” and that Pearson’s $2.5 billion purchase of National Computer Systems in 2000 would help attract schools wishing use online tools as learning aids. According to Numis Securities analyst Richard Hitchcock this was an unfair evaluation. “Our view is we’re positive on Pearson,” he said. Regarding the Financial Times, he added: “You would never underestimate the impact of Murdoch, but it’s not a major profit driver.”

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