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Pearson Posts Strong Earnings, Upgrades Dividend, Outlook Upbeat

By Lilly Vitorovich Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES LONDON -(Dow Jones)- Publisher Pearson PLC (PSON.LN) Monday reported market-beating earnings and sales for 2009 and increased its dividend by 5%, buoyed by its extensive education operations in the U.S., digital learning and the strength of the dollar against the sterling, and was upbeat about its prospects. Pearson said it expects "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." Pearson publishes the Financial Times newspaper and Penguin books, but is dominated by its huge education division with imprints including FT Prentice Hall, Longman and York Notes. Adjusted earnings per share, which excludes intangibles such as goodwill, rose 13% to 65.4 pence for the year ended Dec. 31--ahead of the group's revised guidance in January of 63.5 pence. That compares with 57.7 pence a piece a year earlier. Pearson declared a final dividend of 23.3 pence a share, taking the total for 2009 to 35.5 pence. That compares with 33.8 pence in 2008. Pearson shares closed at 912 pence Friday, valuing the group at GBP7.40 billion. The stock has risen 39% over the past 12 months, underpinned by the strong performance of its education operations. -By Lilly Vitorovich, Dow Jones Newswires; 44-0-207 842 9290;

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