Departing Pearson boss heads for the exit on the back of more weak sales

Departing Pearson boss heads for the exit on the back of more weak sales as the pandemic adds to struggling education publisher’s difficulties

  • International sales were affected by immigration centres closing in Australia 
  • John Fallon has issued a set profit warnings, cut jobs and sold assets while CEO
  • Demand for traditional products such as university course textbooks have fallen 

Education publisher Pearson has revealed its sales have dived this year despite a surge in virtual learning in what is its last trading update with John Fallon as chief executive.

Its orders fell 14 per cent over the first nine months of 2020 compared to the same period last year as the coronavirus pandemic caused massive damage to its testing and North American courseware businesses.

Closed schools and test centres have

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Pearson sales fall despite rise in online courses

Penguin books
Penguin books on a shelf. Last year Pearson struck a £530m deal to sell its stake in Penguin Random House. Photo: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

Sales at education giant Pearson (PSON.L) fell 10% in the three months to September as a slump in its textbook and testing business eclipsed a rise in online learning.

It was the third consecutive quarter of decline, but an improvement on the second quarter’s 28% fall.

The FTSE 100 publisher, which is transitioning from traditional textbooks to digital, has suffered from tumbling sales this year as schools and testing centres shut in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, digital revenue did manage to soften the pandemic blow as its online education business posted a 32% increase.

Enrolment in virtual schools jumped 41% in the first nine months of the year but overall sales were 14% lower in the period compared with 2019.

Watch: What is a recession?

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Why do things keep going wrong for Pearson? : CityAM

John Fallon, longstanding chief executive of Pearson, will step down next week after nearly eight years at the helm.

The education boss today signed off with a mixed set of results for the first nine months of the year, as a surge in demand for online learning helped to offset sliding sales.

The figures summed up the major challenges faced by the FTSE 100 firm as it battles the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on top of major shifts in learnings habits.

So as the power at Pearson passes into new hands, we look at the company’s troubled history and the tasks at the top of the new boss’ to-do list.

Read more: Pearson appoints Disney veteran Andy Bird as new chief executive

Digital natives

Signing off after a turbulent time at the top, boss Fallon today acknowledged that there were “plenty of things I wish I’d done differently”.


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Pearson says trends ‘improving’ in third quarter

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(Sharecast News) – Pearson reported an “improving” trend in its third quarter on Wednesday, with a strong performance in its Global Online Learning; North American Courseware and Global Assessment businesses in line with expectations, while its International operations were further impacted by Covid-19.

The FTSE 100 education publisher said that for the first nine months of the year, group sales declined by 14%, largely reflecting the continuing impact of Covid-19 and test centre and school closures in Global Assessment and International, and expected declines in North American Courseware.

In Global Online Learning, it said sales grew 14% due to 41% enrolment growth in virtual schools for the 2021 academic year, with strong sales growth in Online Program Management driven by undergraduate and international performance, partially

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Pearson’s strategy pays off as Covid-19 accelerates online learning

LONDON: The outgoing boss of Pearson hailed the success on Wednesday of his lengthy and often painful battle to rebuild the education group for a digital generation after Covid-19 accelerated the switch to online learning.

John Fallon, who issued a string of profit warnings as students moved from expensive textbooks to digital learning, said the company would not have been able to cope with the rapid shift online during the pandemic had it not previously prepared.

The group’s performance was boosted by a 32% jump in global online learning in its third quarter.

“The last few years have been hard for our shareholders and everybody involved but we have stayed true to our purpose,” he told reporters. “The future of learning is digital and as you can see from these trends, Pearson is going to play a very very big part in it.” Pearson’s shares rose 3% in early trading.

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Pearson sales drop on weakness in textbook and testing businesses

Publishing group Pearson has said its sales in the third quarter fell after a boom in online learning courses failed to offset steep falls in its textbook and testing businesses.

The FTSE 100 company said its underlying sales fell 10 per cent in the three months to September, following falls in the previous two quarters.

Pearson’s online education business was boosted by the pandemic, with sales jumping 32 per cent in the third quarter. Enrolment in virtual schools increased 41 per cent in the first nine months of 2020.

The company’s other main business groups faltered. Sales at the unit that markets textbooks in the US and Canada fell 15 per cent in the third quarter. Its international unit, which performs an English assessment on behalf of the UK home office as well as other exams, endured a 26 per cent tumble.

John Fallon, Pearson’s chief executive who is set

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Pressure grows on Pearson over pay row, while sales steady

PEARSON reported some improvement in sales today, but a row over executive pay and an impending management shake-up continue to dog the company.

The education publisher saw overall sales tumble 14% in the nine months to September, but global online sales also grew 14%.

Sales in the third quarter fell 10%, an improvement on the 28% fall in the second quarter.

John Fallow, the chief executive to be replaced by Andy Bird next week, said: “Our digital performance is very strong, as we support customers and learners around the world as they shift to fully online and hybrid learning. This has been a challenging transformation for all of us but we are starting to see the benefit of all our work to ensure Pearson becomes the winner in digital learning.”

A third of shareholders have voted against the pay deal offered to Bird, a former Disney executive. He could qualify

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Pearson says demand for online learning softens impact of …

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LONDON, Oct 14 (Reuters) – British education group Pearson said it was on course to hit market expectations after demand for online learning helped soften the impact from cancelled tests and closed schools due to COVID-19.

The company, which has appointed former Disney executive Andy Bird as its new CEO from next week, said group sales fell by 14% over 9 months due to school closures, campus shop closures and the cancellation of exams.

The 9-month result marks a slight improvement from the half-year, when group sales were down 17%.

Analysts are expecting the group, which has spent years restructuring to adapt to the move online, to post adjusted operating profit of 332 million pounds ($428.65 million)in 2020. It had forecast profit of up to 490 million pounds in February.

“This has been a challenging transformation for all of us but we are starting to see the

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Digital English Language Learning Market to reach $ 14.69 bn by 2024, EF Education First, Cengage Learning Inc., and Pearson

  Digital English Language Learning Market to reach $ 14.69 bn by 2024, EF
  Education First, Cengage Learning Inc., and Pearson Plc., emerge as Key
  Contributors to growth | Technavio

Business Wire

LONDON -- October 13, 2020

Technavio has been monitoring the Digital English Language Learning Market and
it is poised to grow by USD 14.69 bn during 2020-2024, progressing at a CAGR
of over 20% during the forecast period. The report offers an up-to-date
analysis regarding the current market scenario, latest trends and drivers, and
the overall market environment.

This press release features multimedia. View the full release here:

Technavio has announced its latest market research report titled Global
Digital English Language Learning Market 2020-2024 (Graphic: Business Wire)

Technavio has announced its latest market research report titled Global
Digital English Language Learning Market 2020-2024 (Graphic: Business Wire)

Although the COVID-19 pandemic continues to transform the growth of various
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Pearson’s chairman needs more lessons on how to say ‘no’

A while ago, Lombard likened Pearson to Philip Larkin’s description of a good book — “a beginning, a muddle and an end”. John Fallon will reach his end as chief executive this week. But he leaves the business still in a muddle and its chairman Sidney Taurel right in the middle. And it is still not clear that Pearson has good tale to tell.

Mr Fallon presided over seven profit warnings during the seven years he was chief executive. And Mr Taurel, recruited in 2016, was there for at least four of them. 

Mr Fallon’s plan was to turn the media and publishing conglomerate into a focused online education business, selling off the Financial Times among other assets. That has done a lot to strengthen Pearson’s balance sheet but little else.

The past five years have been marked by disappointments, poor sales growth and erosion in margins and market share

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