Monday, February 26, 2007

Pearson Post Record Results

Pearson have been cagy all year regarding where they would end up and downplayed the full year impact they expected even after they posted very strong half year numbers. As anticipated they have posted results at the top end of analysts expectations with profits up 19% over last year to 502million pounds. EPS slightly exceeded guidence at 40.2pence. Here is the Reuters release.

In the company's release they pointed to the strong performance of all groups including the education group (both higher ed and k-12) which has been strong all year, FT group ad revenues and Penguin. The Penguin numbers may be at or slightly higher than other consumer publishing companies may be expecting. Here are the highlights from the Pearson release:

Record results. Pearson reports its highest ever operating profits (adjusted operating profit up 15% to £592m), earnings (adjusted eps up 18% to 40.2p) and cash (free cash flow up £2m to £433m).

Sustained growth and market share gains. School sales up 6% and Higher Education sales up 4%, benefiting from leading position in content, assessment and technology; FT advertising revenues up 9%; Penguin sales up 3% despite tough consumer publishing market. Stronger margins and double-digit profit growth in all businesses.

Pearson margin up a percentage point to 13.4%. Education margin up to 14.1% and profits up 12%; FT Group margin up to 17.3% and profits up 18%; Penguin margin up to 7.8% and profits up 22%. Higher returns. Return on invested capital up to 8.0% (from 6.7% in 2005), above Pearson's weighted average cost of capital; dividend increased by 8.5% to 29.3p, the largest increase for a decade.

In their preview of 2007, it is basically more of the same with essentially the same outlook for education that they gave this time last year with growth in the 4-6% range with margin improvement in School and professional. Penguin margins are expected to continue to improve (and at 8% are already quite good for trade) and the FT group is expected to continue to benefit from the reorganization that they have implemented during the past 18mths or so. Margins are expected to improve there.

Naturally, there is no word on future acquisitions but growth from acquisitions has been critical to Pearson in growthing top line and margins recently - although underlying growth has been significant as well. Look for Pearson to continue to be active on this front particularly as Thomson Learning and Harcourt will be distracted by their respective divestiture processes.

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