Pearson Finance Chief to Leave in 2015 Amid Turnaround Plan

Pearson Plc’s long-time Chief Financial Officer Robin Freestone will step down next year as the U.K. publisher and education company seeks to overcome a shrinking market for printed books and newspapers.

The 55-year-old, who has been working at Pearson for 10 years, including eight years as CFO, will depart before the end of 2015 to “explore a range of other interests.” Pearson has begun a search for internal and external candidates as successor, the London-based company said today.

Freestone will leave a company that has yet to emerge from a slowdown weighed on by declining U.S. college enrollments. Pearson today reported a 6 percent decline in nine-month revenue -- partly because the strength of the British pound reduced sales converted from U.S. dollars -- and reiterated that profit will shrink for another year.

“Freestone’s decision to step down will raise questions on several fronts,” Claudio Aspesi, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, said in a note. “It will increase uncertainty at a time when the company is undergoing significant changes.”

Pearson shares fell 2.6 percent to 1,138 pence at 9:45 a.m. in London, giving the publisher of the Financial Times a market value of 9.3 billion pounds ($15 billion).

Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, competes with Financial Times in providing financial news and information.

Job Cuts

Pearson spent about 176 million pounds reorganizing last year. It said in January that net restructuring expenses will be about 50 million pounds in 2014 and that it will invest another 50 million pounds to expand digital and emerging market operations. Pearson said in July that it will have cut a total of 4,000 jobs in the two years through 2014.

“Our restructuring program is on track,” Chief Executive Officer John Fallon said in today’s statement. “We still expect those markets to start to stabilize next year and then return to growth in future years.”

Full-year adjusted earnings will be in a range of 62 pence to 67 pence a share, compared with 70.1 pence in 2013. Excluding currency swings, revenue rose 1 percent in the first nine months.

School revenue declined by 7 percent because of policy changes in the U.S. and U.K. while sales from higher education rose 8 percent on enrollments in South Africa and in online education services.

The Financial Times recorded a “slight decline” in revenue from a year ago as a drop in print subscriptions offset a 23 percent increase in digital. Total paid circulation was almost 690,000 in the first nine months, Pearson said.

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