Pearson makes $650m digital learning buy

PEARSON yesterday announced a $650m (£403m) buy-out of online education firm EmbanetCompass, in a move that signals Pearson’s increasing emphasis on digital publishing and education.

The acquisition is Pearson’s largest since it spent $950m on Reed Elsevier’s educational arm Harcourt in 2007, and is expected to be the last under departing chief executive Marjorie Scardino.

Pearson – which also publishes the Financial Times, owns book publisher Penguin and a 50 per cent stake in The Economist – said the deal would improve dividends and “broadens our leading position in the fast-growing online educational services market”.

EmbanetCompass provides a range of online learning services and software to universities in the US. It was previously owned by a group of investors led by venture capital firm Technology Crossover Ventures.

Pearson has increasingly moved into the university learning market over the last few years, and two weeks ago appointed education boss John Fallon as Scardino’s successor, sparking speculation that the company would sell off the FT and Penguin.

Education now makes up three-quarters of the company’s revenue, with the firm eyeing further growth in emerging markets and digital learning.

“Institutional services are one of the fastest growing areas of the US higher education market,” the company said.