GE, Pearson discuss bid that would combine Dow Jones, CNBC, Financial Times


General Electric Co. and Financial Times publisher Pearson PLC are discussing making a joint bid for Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones & Co., the Journal reported Sunday.

The joint venture would combine the Financial Times, Dow Jones and business channel CNBC in a privately held joint venture, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. It would be owned in equal parts by GE and Pearson, with Dow Jones' controlling shareholders, the Bancroft family, keeping a minority stake in the new company, the report said.

The people cautioned that the discussions between GE and Pearson were preliminary.

GE spokesman Gary Sheffer declined to comment on the report. A message left Sunday night for a Pearson spokesman was not immediately returned.

The Journal reported Friday that Pearson, based in the United Kingdom, was trying to rally partners for a possible bid to rival Rupert Murdoch's $5 billion US offer for Dow Jones.

Murdoch's News Corp., which includes the Fox broadcast network, Fox News Channel, MySpace, the New York Post and many newspapers in the U.K. and Australia, has offered $60 a share for Dow Jones, well above the mid-$30s range the stock had been trading at prior to his offer becoming public.

The Bancroft family initially rebuffed Murdoch's approach but then agreed to meet him to discuss concerns about his offer. Some Dow Jones shareholders and a union that represents Dow Jones employees say they are concerned that Murdoch may meddle with the Journal's coverage to suit his business interests _ concerns that News Corp. says are unfounded.

A Bancroft family spokesman said last week that family members are still working on a proposal to News Corp. for setting up a structure that would safeguard the Journal's editorial independence.

The potential GE-Pearson joint venture would have a hand in many sources of business news and financial information around the world. Besides the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and CNBC, it would own Barrons, half of the Economist magazine, and interests in business newspapers worldwide. It would also own the business-news website and a controlling stake in financial information compiler Interactive Data Corp., among other holdings.


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