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December 1, 2015

Nikkei completes £844m FT takeover: ‘Our management objectives are global and digital’

By William Turvill

The “management objectives” for Nikkei, the new owner of the Financial Times, are “global and digital”, its chairman has said.

The Japanese company’s takeover of the English newspaper was completed yesterday. Readers were informed via a front page letter from editor Lionel Barber in today’s newspaper.

Nikkei’s £844m purchase of the FT from Pearson – which had owned it since 1957 – was announced in July.

Since then, former editors of the newspaper, journalists and former FT Group chairman Sir David Bell have expressed concerns about ensuring the independence of the title.

In addition, the FT’s National Union of Journalists chapel has threatened the company with strike action over proposed cuts to pensions benefits.

This was backed away from last month following a promise to delay the cuts. FT management had been proposing to cut £4m a year from the FT final salary pension scheme, but this move has now been delayed for a year. The change came because staff have to leave the pension scheme of former owner Pearson due to the sale.

In an interview with Reuters, Nikkei chairman Tsuneo Kita said: “Our management objectives at Nikkei are global and digital, those are the two key words, and so for the future, in order to grow as global media and to further promote our digital media business, the best partner is definitely the FT.”

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Kita, speaking through a Japanese translator in the FT’s Southwark Bridge offices, is also quoted as saying: “We wish to expand our market.”

Reuters also quoted FT chief executive John Ridding as saying: “We believe there’s a strong opportunity for growth, that we are at the intersection of two of the big global trends of our time which are digital, and particularly mobile, and the globalisation of business.”

In his editor’s letter, on today’s front page, Barber said: “Nikkei and the FT will learn from each other. We will co-operate on specific projects, while safeguarding the editorial independence intrinsic to our culture and value. New owners, new partners, same pink FT.

“The FT has been in the vanguard of the digital transformation of global media. More people than ever — more than three quarters of a million — are now paying for FT journalism delivered on digital devices and in print, through the written word, as well as in audio and video. With Nikkei’s backing, we intend to expand our ambition and our readership.

“The FT will continue to thrive in its home in the City of London, while drawing on the strengths of more than 100 foreign correspondents. We pledge to continue to pursue independent quality journalism. Without fear and without favour.”

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