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July 23, 2015updated 27 Jul 2015 1:56pm

Sir David Bell calls for independence safeguards as £844m sale of Financial Times to Nikkei agreed

By William Turvill and Dominic Ponsford

Pearson has agreed a deal to sell Financial Times Group to Nikkei for £844m.

Former chairman of FT Group Sir David Bell told the FT: “If a deal goes ahead, it is imperative that there are independently audited safeguards to protect the independence of the FT.”

The Japan-based media group claims to have 3m subscribers for its flagship newspaper, The Nikkei. It also has digital and broadcast publishing interests.

The deal does not include the FT Group’s 50 per cent stake in The Economist or the FT’s London headquarters, One Southwark Bridge.

With more than 500,000 digital subscribers, the FT claims a total print/digital circulation of 737,000 – up more than 30 per cent in five years.

Pearson reports today that FT Group contributed £334m of sales and £24m of adjusted operating in profit to the group in 2014.

The deal is expected to be concluded by the end of the year provided it is approved by regulators.

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The sale will include a contribution of £90m to the Pearson group pension plan.

Pearson expects to pay tax of £60m on the deal.

Pearson chief executive John Fallon said: "Pearson has been a proud proprietor of the FT for nearly 60 years. But we've reached an inflection point in media, driven by the explosive growth of mobile and social. In this new environment, the best way to ensure the FT's journalistic and commercial success is for it to be part of a global, digital news company.

“Pearson will now be 100 per cent focused on our global education strategy. The world of education is changing profoundly and we see huge opportunity to grow our business through increasing access to high quality education globally.

 “Nikkei has a long and distinguished track record of quality, impartiality and reliability in its journalism and global viewpoint. The Board and I are confident that the FT will continue to flourish under Nikkei's ownership".

Nikkei chief executive Tsuneo Kita said: “I am extremely proud of teaming up with the Financial Times, one of the most prestigious news organisations in the world. Our motto of providing high-quality reporting on economic and other news, while maintaining fairness and impartiality, is very close to that of the FT. We share the same journalistic values. Together, we will strive to contribute to the development of the global economy."

The Financial Times was founded in 1884 and has been owned by Pearson since 1957. It employs 500 journalists.

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