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Spiegel Eyes Pearson Stake in FT Deutschland

Germany's Spiegel magazine group is in talks to acquire British publisher Pearson's 50% stake in German financial daily Financial Times Deutschland (FTD), a source familiar with the situation said.

A managing director of the group that represents Spiegel's employee shareholders, Armin Mahler, told staff in Hamburg on Tuesday Pearson was looking to sell its FTD stake and was in talks with Spiegel and others, the source told Reuters.

Pearson is already in talks to sell its French business daily Les Echos to luxury goods group LVMH and its chief executive Marjorie Scardino has repeatedly talked of her desire to invest in the Financial Times brand and pursue the expansion of the pink-sheeted newspaper via print and online.

Scardino said at the end of July the planned sale of Les Echos did not have implications for the group's other newspaper assets, but added the French paper needed a national strategy and that Pearson's focus was global.

The other 50% stake in FTD is owned by publisher Gruner+Jahr, which in turn is controlled by Europe's largest media group Bertelsmann.

Asked by staff whether the purchase of the Pearson stake would be good for Spiegel, Mahler said it was too early to say as he had not yet seen any financial figures, the source said.

Unique Structure

Spiegel group has a range of print products as well as a TV production company, in addition to owning Germany's leading news magazine Der Spiegel. In 2006 total group turnover was 332 million euros ($457.8 million).

The group has a unique ownership structure, with its employees holding 50%. They are entitled to half the profit and have a say in management decisions.

The rest of Spiegel is owned by Rudolf Augstein, Gruner+Jahr and by the heirs of Rudolf Augstein, who founded Der Spiegel magazine in 1947.

Media reports on Monday said the sale should be sealed in coming weeks as soon as staff agree on the plans.

Spokespeople for Spiegel, Pearson and Gruner+Jahr all declined to comment.

Pearson's Financial Times Group accounted for 16% of Pearson's sales last year and 21% of operating profit.

The division has a network of business newspaper and online assets including the Economist magazine, in which Pearson owns a 50% stake, and the Financial Times newspaper.

Pearson's interim results at the end of July showed FT Deutschland's circulation had risen 2% to 105,000. This compares with the Financial Times, whose worldwide circulation rose 1% to 450,000 and a 12% rise in ft.com subscribers to 97,000.

The FTD was formed in early 2000 at the height of the Internet boom. It was the first national daily newspaper to be launched in Germany in more than 50 years.

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