British publisher Pearson PLC, owner of the Financial Times newspaper and Penguin Books, reported a 45 percent rise in full year net profit on Monday, after strong growth in its U.S. higher education division outweighed tougher conditions at other units.

The company said it expected further underlying profit growth this year after revenue, earnings per share and operating profit for 2009 all beat earlier forecasts as it picked up market share in its core education business.

Net profit rose to 425 million pounds ($632 million) in 2009 from 292 million pounds a year earlier, while revenue rose 16.6 percent to 5.6 billion pounds from 4.8 billion pounds.

The closely watched adjusted operating profit figure was 858 million pounds and earnings per share were 65.4 pence.

The group said its North American education publishing arm, which is the company's biggest business with annual sales of 2.5 billion pounds and operating profits of 403 million pounds, enjoyed strong growth during the year.

That helped it overcome tougher conditions for FT Group and Penguin, where profits fell by 4 percent to 187 million pounds and 10 percent to 84 million pounds respectively.

Trading conditions in those markets brightened towards the end of the year, although Pearson said it expected some of its sectors will remain subdued throughout this year.

"Even so, we expect Pearson to produce another year of underlying profit growth, helped by the overall resilience of our company and good growth prospects for our businesses in digital, services and emerging markets," the company said in a statement.

Pearson shares rose 2.1 percent to 931 pence.

"We believe companies, such as Pearson, with strong earnings momentum will perform well in 2010 as investors reward growth," said Jonathan Jackson, head of equities at Killik & Co. "We would expect to see a further re-rating of the stock ... and further upgrades."

The 2009 earnings were also boosted by the strength of the U.S. dollar against the British pound — the group generates 60 percent of its sales in dollars — a theme Jackson said was likely to have continued into the start of 2010.

Pearson said advertising revenues were "highly unpredictable" but that it expects to see some stabilization at its FT Publishing division after the sharp declines across the industry in 2009.

Ad revenues at the operation, which includes the national newspaper and the company's 50 percent stake in the Economist magazine, now account for less than 3 percent of Pearson's total turnover.


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