CORRECTED-Facing risks on all fronts, Pearson boss battles to raise grades

miércoles 18 de noviembre de 2015 05:13 GYT

(Corrects finance chief's name in paragraph 29 to "Coram" from "Corey")

By Kate Holton and Sinead Cruise

LONDON Nov 18 (Reuters) - Pearson boss John Fallon faces a daunting task to arrest the decline of the world's biggest education publisher as it battles growing political and economic strife.

Fallon has endured a rough ride since he took over in 2013, with a string of profit warnings marking his tenure, in an abrupt end to the steady growth enjoyed by his predecessor Marjorie Scardino during her 16 years in charge.

He is heading a company facing struggles on many fronts. In the United States - its biggest market - it has been hit by a political row that has hampered sales of textbooks, and by school-leavers opting for employment over higher education.

Sales have also been held back by slowing economies and education spending cuts in emerging markets, a key focus of its new strategy, all while the company is grappling with the shift from print to digital that is reshaping its business model.

Pearson's market value has almost halved since March - wiping off around 6 billion pounds ($9 billion) - as investors questioned how long they would have to wait for future earnings growth. Its latest profit warning a month ago alone wiped 3.3 billion pounds off its value.

Asked when it expected Pearson to return to "meaningful growth", one institutional investor said: "I am suspicious they won't."

It falls to Fallon to reverse the problems at the 171-year-old British company, which tied its fortunes to education publishing even more tightly this year when it sold the Financial Times and its stake in The Economist.   Continuación...