Pearson to sell 22 percent stake in Penguin Random House to Bertelsmann

UK

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LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Pearson has agreed to sell a 22 percent stake in book publisher Penguin Random House to joint venture partner Bertelsmann for around $1 billion to bolster its balance sheet and return cash to shareholders.

Pearson, restructuring after a string of profit warnings from its education unit, said the sale would enable it to return 300 million pounds ($386 million) of surplus capital to shareholders via a share buyback.

The deal, which values the book publisher at an enterprise value of $3.55 billion, will also enable the two groups to recapitalise the business to produce a net debt to core earnings ratio of two times, giving the two partners a dividend.

Pearson, which reiterated its guidance for 2017, said its holding in Penguin Random House would fall to 25 percent. It will be subject to an 18-month lock-up period from closing of the deal, during which it cannot sell any more of the stake.

“Combining Penguin with Random House has proved to be a great publishing success, as well as enabling some big cost savings,” said Chief Executive John Fallon.

“This has benefited readers, authors, and shareholders. Today’s deal enables Pearson to realise a significant amount of the value we’ve helped to create whilst continuing to be part of the world’s biggest and best trade publisher.”

Pearson said it now planned to pay a “sustainable and progressive” dividend that is comfortably covered by the earnings of its ongoing business, excluding any contribution from the book publisher.

Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by James Davey and Mark Potter

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