Pearson Expects Digital Business To Spur 2012 Growth

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Pearson Plc (PSON.L,PSO) on Monday said it expects to achieve continued sales and profit growth in 2012 after reporting a 72 percent surge in 2011 pre-tax profit. The British publisher expects digital business to be the chief contributor in 2012 rather than its traditional publishing business.

In 2011, digital revenues climbed 18 percent with substantial growth in all parts of the business. Students using digital learning programs grew 23 percent to 43 million, the company noted.

In the year, pre-tax profit advanced to 1.16 billion pounds from 670 million pounds in 2010. The results included a 412 million pounds gain related to the December 2011 disposal of its 50 percent stake in FTSE International Limited.

Excluding the gain and other items affecting comparability, adjusted pre-tax profit grew to 890 million pounds from 853 million pounds last year as annual sales increased to 5.86 billion from 5.66 billion pounds a year earlier.

Chief Executive Marjorie Scardino said the external environment provides a testing backdrop for these results, and all the company's industries face some degree of turbulence.

The company has generated approximately 60 percent of sales and profits in US dollars. Currency movements reduced sales by 122 million pounds. At constant exchange rates, sales grew 6 percent in spite of tough trading conditions in many markets, the company said.

Sales from North American Education segment, Pearson's largest business, dropped 2 percent adversely affected by state budget pressures and declines in college enrolments, despite strong performance of digital and services businesses.

In Penguin, sales edged down 1 percent despite 106 percent increase in eBook revenues as market conditions were tough following the collapse of two major customers. The segment achieved good results in the US, the UK and Australia.

Further, the company said its board proposed a final dividend for 2011 of 28 pence, bringing the total dividend to 42 pence, a 9 percent increase from the prior year.

Looking ahead, the company noted: "The external environment is likely to remain challenging in 2012, in the face of turbulent macroeconomic conditions and rapid structural change in our industries. However, we will once again make progress on our strategic goals of making Pearson more digital, more exposed to developing markets and more directly engaged in helping students succeed."

Pearson shares are currently trading at 1,219 pence, down 32 pence or 2.56 percent in London.

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