Update: An FT spokesperson has confirmed the development. “The Financial Times has submitted an application to the relevant Indian regulatory authorities for permission to publish a facsimile edition of the Financial Times in India and is also seeking associated FDI approvals. We have no further comments at this time,” an FT spokesperson wrote in response to a questionnaire.
Original story: Close on the heels of The Wall Street Journal, which has received necessary clearances and will shortly launch a facsimile edition in India, its global competitor Financial Times, owned by London-based Pearson (NYSE: PSO) Plc., is set to follow suit, according to a person familiar with the situation. The company has formed an Indian subsidiary, The Financial Times (India) Pvt. Ltd, and has sought permission from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board of the Indian government to invest in the country. Dow Jones (NYSE: NWS), WSJ’s parent, first sought permission for a fax edition in August 2008, and did not receive approvals till last month. Financial Times, however, has sought permission “To print, publish, distribute and conduct for sale one or more newspapers”, and hasn’t specifically said it wants to launch a fax edition.
A facsimile edition is an exact replica of a newspaper printed abroad and cannot carry local ads or local news that is not originally published in the country of origin. India has six (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) national business dailies in English. According to GroupM, in 2008, of the total ad spends of Rs22,683 crore, newspapers accounted for Rs10,033 crore. The agency expects newspaper advertising to degrow by 2% to Rs9,832 crore.
Pearson was one of the earliest global media players to establish presence in India. Financial Times had forged a content partnership with Business Standard, which grew into a strategic partnership in 2003, when the London publisher picked up a 14% stake in Business Standard Ltd. The relationship with Business Standard, however, soured eventually, according to several reports and executive accounts, coming in the way of Pearson’s appetite for expansion in India. Pearson finally pulled out in 2008 and formed a partnership with Raghav Behl’s Network18 Group, according to multiple sources. Neither company has publicly announced it, however. The FT-TV18 business daily, a venture in which Pearson could have at most held 26% equity stake, as per Indian laws, was expected to launch by the end of 2008, but much changed in the world since the time the partnership was forged. It is unclear now when, if at all, will the plans for an Indian edition of FT be revived. FT, meanwhile, launched an India section on its website last year, and was reportedly in talks with Network18 for an online content partnership.