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The Deal: Pearson hires JPMorgan Cazenove to Shop MergerMarket

Tickers in this article: NWSA

NEW YORK (TheStreet) - The U.K.'s Pearson plc said Friday that it hired JPMorgan Cazenove Ltd. to consider a sale of Mergermarket, it's acquisitions news and data platform.

The London parent company, which has made education services its main focus, said the process is at an early stage and may not lead to a transaction. Pearson is best known as the publisher of the Financial Times but in 2012 generated more than two-thirds of its £6.1 billion ($9.4 billion) in revenue from education services.

The Mergermarket auction follows Pearson's merger of its Penguin Group with Bertelsmann SE's Random House earlier this month. Pearson holds a 47% stake in the Penguin Random House joint venture. Mergermarket is part of Pearson's Financial Times Group division.

During a presentation Friday about Pearson's first-half results, Pearson CEO John Fallon sought to quash speculation the company is looking to sell the Financial Times, saying it was a valued part of the company. The 13-year-old Mergermarket has 300 journalists in 65 locations.

Pearson on Friday said that Mergermarket's annual sales are about £100 million and that during the first half Mergermarket "continued to grow despite a challenging M&A market," with both Mergermarket and its Debtwire affiliate performing strongly.

Pearson declined to disclose Mergermarket's earnings but Fallon said Mergermarket is a "growing, profitable business." He said the decision to explore a possible sale of Mergermarket was not driven by a specific approach, but stemmed from a review which concluded the company fell outside Pearson's focal points of education, digital services and emerging markets.

Pearson executives declined to comment on the potential valuation, or on a Reuters report, citing "banking sources," that Mergermarket could command a price tag of as much as £300 million. Pearson bought it in 2006 for £101 million. It is a competitor to The Deal in providing M&A news and data. Pearson itself has a market value of £11.1 billion.

JPMorgan's Cazenove declined to comment.

Written by Laura Board in New York