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Pearson sells share of Penguin Random House in $1bn deal

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Media group Pearson has announced the sale of a 22% share in Penguin Random House to Bertelsmann.

The deal is expected to close in September and values Penguin Random House at around $3.55bn.

“The transaction is in line with our strategy and allows us to generate net proceeds of approximately $1 billion, strengthen our balance sheet, return £300m of surplus capital to shareholders via a share buyback and maintain a significant income stream from an ongoing 25% stake in the world’s leading consumer publisher,” Pearson said in its announcement.

“Combining Penguin with Random House has proved to be a great publishing success, as well as enabling some big cost savings,” said Pearson CEO John Fallon. “This has benefited readers, authors, and shareholders.

“Today’s deal enables Pearson to realise a significant amount of the value we’ve helped to create whilst continuing to be part of the world’s biggest and best trade publisher. We will use the proceeds to maintain our strong balance sheet, invest in our business and return £300m to shareholders.”

When completed, the deal will see Pearson’s share fall to 25%.

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EE to introduce balloon and drone-based masts

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Mobile provider EE has revealed its own patent-pending drone and baloon-based mobile masts aimed at improving coverage throughout the UK.

The company claims that its air masts will be able to serve sites where 4G coverage is absent, or to aid search and rescue operations. EE expects to first use the technology in the UK later this year.

“We are going to extraordinary lengths to connect communities across the UK,” said CEO Marc Allera. “Innovation is essential for us to go further than we’ve ever gone, and deliver a network that’s more reliable than ever before. Rural parts of the UK provide more challenges to mobile coverage than anywhere else, so we have to work harder there – developing these technologies will ultimately help our customers, even in the most hard-to-reach areas.”

The drones and balloons will use small cells to connect into the EE network via satellite or 4G.

“Looking ahead, I see innovations like this revolutionising the way people connect,” Allera said. “We’re developing the concept of ‘coverage on demand’. What if an event organiser could request a temporary EE capacity increase in a rural area, or a climber going up Ben Nevis could order an EE aerial coverage solution to follow them as they climb? We need to innovate, and we need to think differently, always using customers’ needs to drive the way we create new technologies.”

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Murdoch Sky takeover gains momentum

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Deal agreed by 21st Century Fox valued at £11.7bn

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s bid to take over Sky via his 21st Century Fox has reached another milestone, with terms being agreed by both sides.

The proposed deal, if completed, will see 21st Century Fox offering £10.75 per share to Sky shareholders, in an acquisition that is expected to complete by the end of 2017 according to the American company’s Nasdaq statement.

“As the founding shareholder of Sky, we are proud to have participated in its growth and development,” 21st Century Fox said. “The strategic rationale for this combination is clear. It creates a global leader in content creation and distribution, enhances our sports and entertainment scale, and gives us unique and leading direct-to-consumer capabilities and technologies. It adds the strength of the Sky brand to our portfolio, including the Fox, National Geographic and Star brands.”

The deal is valued at £11.7bn in order to acquire the 61% of Sky not yet owned by 21st Century Fox. It has already sparked intense political debate, five years on from the phone-hacking scandal that ended Murdoch’s previous attempt to fully acquire the broadcaster.

Sky’s deputy chairman, Martin Gilbert, added detail to the proposal. “The Independent Committee, which was formed with the express purpose of protecting independent shareholders’ interests in relation to the proposal from 21st Century Fox, has given full consideration to the fundamental value and prospects for the Sky Group,” he explained.

“While the Independent Committee remains confident in Sky’s long-term prospects, as laid out in detail at our recent investor day in October, we, supported by our advisers, believe 21st Century Fox’s offer at a 40% premium to the undisturbed share price will accelerate and de-risk the delivery of future value for all Sky Shareholders. As a result, the Independent Committee unanimously agreed that we have a proposal that we can put to Sky shareholders and recommend.

“The Independent Committee also notes 21st Century Fox’s track record in growing businesses and its ability to continue the development of Sky across Europe, in a world where entertainment and distribution are converging. 21st Century Fox’s ownership will support the delivery of Sky’s strategy and long-term growth, ensuring that it remains at the forefront of Europe’s creative industries.”