Japanese media group Nikkei has agreed to buy the Financial Times from Britain’s Pearson (PSON.L) for $1.3 billion, putting one of the world’s premier business newspapers in the hands of a company influential at home but little known outside Japan.
The deal, struck after Nikkei beat Germany’s Axel Springer (SPRGn.DE) to the prize, marks the biggest acquisition by a Japanese media organization and is a coup for the employee-owned firm which lends its name to the main Japanese stock market index.
In the Financial Times it has acquired an authoritative global newspaper that commands strong loyalty from its readers and has coped better than others with the shift to online publishing. It was one of the first newspapers to successfully charge for access to its website.
Established in 1884 and first printed on pink paper in 1893 to stand out from rivals, the FT has employed some of the leading figures in media and politics, including Robert Thomson, Chief Executive of News Corp (NWSA.O), former British finance minister Nigel Lawson and Ed Balls, an adviser to former British prime minister Gordon Brown.
“I am extremely proud of teaming up with the Financial Times, one of the most prestigious news organizations in the world,” said Tsuneo Kita, chairman and group CEO of Nikkei. “We share the same journalistic values.”
The Nikkei newspaper, which has a circulation surpassing 3 million for its morning edition alone, enjoys a must-read reputation for financial and business news in Japan but has struggled to break out of its home market.
The paper, with its deep ties to corporate Japan, has also faced criticism for running earnings “previews”, which are considered to be leaks, days ahead of corporate results at a time when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has been pushing for greater corporate transparency.
As the news broke of the Nikkei deal, an FT journalist tweeted a photograph showing staff in their newsroom crowded around a television watching the developments.