Japan's Nikkei pledges to respect Financial Times' culture

TOKYO - Nikkei Inc., the Japanese buyer of the Financial Times, pledged Friday to respect the culture of the London-based business daily, while also tapping its digital expertise and global reach.

"The FT will remain the FT. Nikkei is Nikkei," said Naotoshi Okada, the president and CEO of Nikkei Inc., which publishes a namesake newspaper that's the top business daily in Japan. "The editorial cultures of each will be respected. If there are any problems, we will talk them out."

Like many Japanese companies, Nikkei is looking overseas for growth in the face of a stagnant economy and shrinking population at home, a move accelerated for the 139-year-old business newspaper by the globalization of media and competitive pressures as readers shift online.

The surprise announcement Thursday that Tokyo-based Nikkei would buy the Financial Times for $1.3 billion from Pearson PLC (PSO) could jump-start Nikkei's overseas push, if it is able to realize synergies between two of the world's leading financial publications.

Okada said the purchase fits in with Nikkei's strategy of beefing up its overseas coverage, especially in Asia.

Nikkei launched a new English-language website and weekly magazine in late 2013 in a bid to become a purveyor of Asian news for business readers globally. It also opened an editorial headquarters in Bangkok to boost its coverage of Southeast Asia.

"Up to now we have focused on relaying Japanese news for Japanese readers," Okada said at a news conference at a Tokyo hotel. With Japanese companies expanding in Asia, "we cannot respond to readers' demands with only coverage of Japan."

He also said the Financial Times has a more advanced digital infrastructure than Nikkei, which is trying to grow its online presence.

Nikkei's chairman Tsuneo Kita said he wasn't that familiar with the FT because his English isn't fluent.

"I don't have the skill to read it but I do gaze upon it," he said.

The Nikkei newspaper dominates business coverage in Japan, with 3.16-million paid subscribers, of which 430,000 are online. The company also runs the Nikkei 225 index, a barometer for Japanese stocks similar to America's Dow Jones Industrial Average.

"Nikkei wanted to go global but they never succeeded in the way they wanted to succeed," said Yoshikazu Mikami, a professor of media studies at Mejiro University in Tokyo. "If you want to be a global player you have to have global reach. The only option is to buy something that is global already."

The Japanese newspaper's full name is the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, which means Japan Economic Newspaper, but it is almost universally called by its abbreviated name, just as the Financial Times is known as the FT.