Pearson full-year earnings reveals £2.3B loss after impairment charge
Collapse of US education market has global education company reeling, looking to sell its English language learning business GEDU
London, UK – February 24, 2017 — Pearson, the world’s learning company, is announcing its preliminary full year results for 2016, following its 18 January trading statement. Key headlines include:
- 2016 operating profit and eps slightly better than January 2017 guidance. Strong 2016 cash conversion
- Sales of £4,552m declined 8% in underlying terms. Good growth in Pearson VUE, US Virtual Schools Online Program Management and Wall Street English in China was more than offset by expected declines in US and UK student assessment and US school courseware, and a much worse than expected decline in North American higher education courseware, as detailed in our 18 January trading statement.
- Deferred revenue was broadly level in underlying terms and is now 18% of our revenues (2015: 16.5%).
- Adjusted operating profit of £635m was down 21% in underlying terms due to weaker revenues, the partial reinstatement of incentives and other operational factors, partially offset by cost savings from the restructuring plan announced in January 2016, a larger contribution from Penguin Random House, helped in part by modest one-off benefits from the integration programme, and a return to profit in our Growth segment.
- Adjusted earnings per share fell 16% to 58.8p reflecting weaker operating results, higher interest and a higher tax rate of 16.5%, offset by the strength of the US Dollar and other currencies against Sterling.
- Operating cash flow increased 52% benefitting from tight working capital control, lower cash incentive payments and the weakness of Sterling. Our cash conversion increased to 104% (2015: 60%).
- Net debt increased to £1,092m (2015: £654m) reflecting the strengthening of the US Dollar relative to Sterling and restructuring costs.
- Digital & services revenues now make up 68% of our total revenues (2015: 65%). We have made good progress in simplifying our technology platforms and seen strong growth in key digital products Revel, iLit, Q-Interactive, Connections Education and global wins in Online Program Management.
- 2016 statutory results and goodwill impairment: Statutory loss for the year of £2,335m included an impairment of goodwill of £2,548m. This impairment charge is consistent with the challenging market conditions which we disclosed in January, and which resulted in an outlook for profit which is approximately £180m lower than previously anticipated.
- 2016 restructuring program: Our 2016 restructuring program was delivered in full, reducing our cost base exiting 2016 by £425m at a cost of £338m. Adjusting for the impact of currency our plan delivered slightly higher benefits at a slightly lower cost than planned.
- 2017 guidance, strategic actions to accelerate digital, simplify the portfolio and preserve financial flexibility
- 2017 outlook in line with 18 January trading statement: Our guidance range is for operating profit in 2017 of £570m to £630m, adjusted earnings per share of 48.5p to 55.5p and cash conversion in excess of 90%. This is based on our existing portfolio, a 2017 net interest charge of £74m, a tax rate of approximately 20%, and exchange rates on 31 December 2016.
- Trading in early 2017: Our early trading is in line with expectations. The phasing in our North American higher education courseware business in 2017 will show a benefit from returns normalising in the first half, whilst the underlying market pressures we have described will impact gross sales primarily in the second half.
- Higher education courseware strategic actions: On 18 January we announced a series of actions, accelerating our work to simplify our product technology platform and enhancing our courseware service capabilities with £50m of additional investment, reducing eBook rental prices and launching our own print rental program piloting with an initial group of 50 titles made available through Pearson’s approved rental partners. We have reduced prices for eBook rental across 2,000 titles, have made good progress on our print rental program and are today announcing details of the first wave of new digital products with greater personalisation, enhanced engagement and cognitive tutoring.
- Simplifying Pearson
- Penguin Random House: With the integration of Penguin Random House complete, and with greater industry-wide stability on digital terms, we have issued an exit notice regarding our 47% stake in Penguin Random House to our JV partner Bertelsmann, in the contractual window, with a view to selling our stake or recapitalising the business and extracting a dividend. We will use proceeds from this action to maintain a strong balance sheet; invest in our business; and return excess capital to shareholders whilst retaining a solid investment grade credit rating. Our guidance assumes ownership of our stake in PRH for all of 2017.
- Direct Delivery: We will continue to reduce our exposure to large scale direct delivery services and focus on more scalable online, virtual, and blended services, across our portfolio. We are today announcing that Pearson has initiated processes to explore a potential partnership for our English language learning business Wall Street English (WSE) and the possible sale of our English test preparation business Global Education (GEDU). These processes are at an early stage and there is no certainty that they will lead to transactions. In 2016, these businesses contributed £253m of revenues and £3m of adjusted operating income. Our guidance assumes ownership of both for all of 2017.
- Efficiency: We continue to manage our costs tightly. We will take further actions to improve the overall efficiency of the company and continue to realign our cost base to reflect the changing needs of our markets. We will update on our plans through the year.
- Preserving financial flexibility
- Debt repayment: To ensure efficient use of the cash balances we held at 31 December 2016, we are today announcing that we will trigger the early repayment option on our $550m 6.25% Global Dollar bonds 2018.
- Rebasing the dividend: As already communicated in January, we intend to recommend a final dividend of 34p for an overall 2016 dividend of 52p in line with our guidance, but as a result of the factors above we intend to rebase our dividend from 2017 onwards.
Pearson’s chief executive John Fallon said:
“2016 was a challenging year for Pearson, but we remain the global leader in education, with a strong market position.
“Our priorities for 2017 are clear. We will continue to accelerate our digital transformation, simplify our portfolio, control our costs, and focus our investment on the biggest growth opportunities in education.”
Pearson’s results presentation for investors and analysts will be audiocast live today from 0900 (GMT) and available for replay from 1200 (GMT) via www.pearson.com. High resolution photographs for the media are available from our website www.pearson.com.