Economist
Pearson is to sell its stake in The Economist to focus on its education divisionReuters

Publishing firm Pearson announced the sale of its 50% stake in business publication The Economist for £469m (€658m, $731.5m). The sale, which is subject to regulatory approval, comes after the publisher disposed of its Financial Times division in a sale to Japanese media giant Nikkei.

27.8% of shares will be sold to Italian-based investment company Exor, while the Economist Group itself will buy the rest. The sale was speculated after the FT deal as Pearson stated it wanted to focus on its education division.

The publisher's chief executive John Fallon, said in a statement: "We have enjoyed supporting the [Economist Group] as it has built a global business, sustaining the excellence of its journalism and ensuring it is read more widely."

"Pearson is now 100% focused on our global education strategy. The world of education is changing rapidly and we see great opportunity to grow our business through increasing access to high quality learning globally."

Exor, which reported it swung into a €40.6m profit in its first quarter of 2015, is increasing its investment in the Economist Group from 4.7% to 43.7% of the total stake. John Elkann, who is chairman and chief executive of the investment firm, said: "By increasing our investment in The Economist we are delighted to affirm our role as one of the Group's long-term supportive shareholders, along with the Cadbury, Layton, Rothschild and Schroder families and other individual stable investors."

Pearson's share price fell by more than 1.3% after the announcement, but recovered later in the day. The company announced on 25 July that the disposal of the FT helped lift its profit guidance for its 2015 financial year, despite the fact that loss tripled to £115m. In the half-year results, the publisher said that sales jumped by 5% to £2.16bn, fuelled by a 7% revenue growth in the company's professional division.

On 23 July, the publisher announced the sale of FT to the Japanese media firm, just hours after the FT confirmed Pearson was in talks with German media company Axel Springer, which owns newspapers die Welt and Bild.