Our performance
2008 Financial overview

In 2008, Pearson's sales increased 8% at constant exchange rates to £4.8bn and adjusted operating profit 11% to a record £762m. Every part of the company contributed to the growth, with adjusted operating profit at Penguin up 4%, at Pearson Education up 11% and at the FT Group up 13%. Adjusted earnings per share were 57.7p, up 24% on a headline basis.

Portfolio changes and currency movements had a significant impact on reported results in 2008. The net effect of acquisitions and disposals was to add £199m to sales and £35m to operating profit, primarily in our education business, where we integrated the testing and international parts of Harcourt, acquired from Reed Elsevier. We also expensed significant integration charges related to the acquisition, which are included in our operating results. Currency movements added £320m to sales and £76m to operating profit. This was largely the result of the strengthening of the US dollar against sterling over the course of the year although the strength of other currencies against sterling also contributed. We generated approximately 60% of our sales and profits in US dollars.

Sales growth
Profit growth

Operating cash flow increased by £112m to £796m (headline growth of 16%) and total free cash flow by £224m to £631m, or 79.2p per share (headline growth of 55%). Cash conversion was once again strong at 104% of operating profit, assisted by exchange rates. Over the past five years, the proportion of our profits converted to cash has averaged more than 100%. Our ratio of average working capital to sales improved by a further 0.1% points after removing portfolio effects.

Our tax rate in 2008 was 26.4%, the same as in 2007.

Our return on average invested capital* showed a headline increase of 0.3% points (to 9.2%).

Statutory results show an increase of £102m in operating profit to £676m (£574m in 2007). Basic earnings per share for continuing businesses were 47.9p in 2008 against 39.0p in 2007.

Balance sheet strength

Net debt was £487m higher at £1,460m (from £973m in 2007). Cash flow was strong, but our net debt was higher with the impact of acquisitions and disposals (net impact of £285m) and the year-end strength of the dollar on our largely dollar-denominated debt (net impact of £410m). Since 2000 Pearson’s net debt/ EBITDA ratio has fallen from 3.9x to 1.7x and our interest cover has increased from 3.1x to 8.7x.

Dividend. The board is proposing a dividend increase of 7% to 33.8p. Subject to shareholder approval, 2008 will be Pearson’s 17th straight year of increasing our dividend above the rate of inflation. Over the past five years we have increased our dividend at a compound annual rate of 7%. Our dividend cover is now 1.7x.

*Using average invested capital and cash tax paid.