Pearson profits to slip on weak U.S. college demand

Reuters
A copy of a Financial Times newspaper is displayed for sale in a newsagent in central London
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A copy of a Financial Times newspaper is displayed for sale in a newsagent in central London July 28, 2008. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico

LONDON (Reuters) - British publisher Pearson (LSE:PSON) said it expected 2013 adjusted operating profit to be lower than last year due to restructuring charges and weaker demand for college textbooks in its North American Education division.

The group did however reiterate its full-year earnings guidance - its key forward-looking metric - after reporting nine month underlying sales up 2 percent due to strong demand in its professional and emerging markets divisions.

Analysts, which said the lower profit forecast had been expected, described Wednesday's trading update as mixed but said they did not expect to change their forecasts for the education and media group, which owns the Financial Times newspaper.

Shares in the group were down 2 percent in early trading after they hit a 12-year high in the run up to the results.

Pearson has undergone a raft of management and structural changes in the last year including the merger of its Penguin books division with Random House, designed to increase its focus on emerging markets and digital services.

The group said underlying revenue was up 5 percent in its international education unit, up 8 percent in its professional education division and flat in North American Education.

"Market conditions remain strong in digital, services and emerging markets, but are more challenging in some of our largest textbook publishing markets," Chief Executive John Fallon said.

"This reinforces the importance of our strategy of accelerated change, so that we can shift more capital and talent more quickly towards these significant growth opportunities."

Overall, the group reiterated its full-year earnings guidance for adjusted earnings per share to be broadly level with last year, at 82.6 pence.

It said it expected education margins to be lower than in 2012 due to pressures in North American Education margins following lower freshman enrolments and weak bookstore purchasing.

The group, which put its M&A-focussed Mergermarket news service up for sale in July, said the process to explore a sale was progressing well.

(Reporting by Kate Holton; editing by Rhys Jones)

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