Pearson shares gained as much as 16% after the opening bell, before paring gains to around 13.22% to change hands at 743.7 pence each, the highest since Jan. 17, when the group issued a profit warning and slashed its annual dividend amid a worrying fall in revenues from its online and printed textbooks business.
Pearson said Friday it was looking at ways of reducing its cost base by £300 million on an annualized basis by the end of 2019 and added it was reviewing its K12 courseware publishing business for a possible sale.
Sales in the first quarter increased by 6% in underlying terms led by growth in revenues due to phasing in North American higher education courseware professional certification. However, the company warned that sales in the second quarter could be by declining returns in the North American higher education courseware business.
"Q1 revenues benefited from positive phasing, as predicted, although we expect the majority of this will unwind in Q2. This is in line with our expectations and consistent with our unchanged full year operating profit guidance," the company said.
Pearson's guidance range for operating profit for the full year 2017 is £570 million to £630 million.
The company said that it has removed more than £650 million of cost over the last four years, due to two significant restructuring programs. It is aiming to take out £300 million by the end of 2019 through opportunities in general and administrative costs in North America.
The company is also hanging a 'for sale' sign over another business. "Our US K12 courseware publishing business has seen a slow pace of digital adoption in basal courseware, high capital intensity and a challenging competitive and market environment and as a result we are today announcing that we have initiated a strategic review of this business," it said.
Analysts have not taken kindly to the move.
"While there may be a positive reaction to the disposals' announcement, Pearson has admitted in their own words a major driver of the savings is that the US Higher Education market is structurally impacted and Pearson's profits have gone backwards despite their previous £650m+ of cost savings suggesting little confidence the new plan will improve profitability," Liberum said in a Friday note.
"To us, therefore, this looks like the newspapers all over again i.e. continued cost savings and disposals to help shore up profitability while the top-line continually disappoints. Reiterate as Key Sell."