General Electric Co. and Pearson Plc said on Thursday they will not pursue a joint offer for publisher Dow Jones & Co. Inc., removing a potential challenge to a $5-billion bid by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.
GE, the world's second-largest company by market capitalization, and Pearson, publisher of the Financial Times, said they had held exploratory talks about combining their financial news outlets with Dow Jones.
GE controls NBC Universal, which operates top U.S. business cable news channel CNBC.
Following these discussions, GE and Pearson have decided not to pursue this combination, GE said in a statement. Pearson and NBC Universal continue to discuss cooperative agreements between CNBC and the Financial Times Group.
Murdoch aims to compete with CNBC with a business news channel of his own, set to launch later this year. But analysts said the potential competition alone would not motivate GE to make an offer for the publisher of the Wall Street Journal.
GE is pretty disciplined on financial returns, and I think when they started looking at what was involved, the numbers didn't work, said Benchmark Co. analyst Ed Atorino.
A spokesman for the Bancroft family, which controls Dow Jones through its voting shares, declined to comment, as did News Corp. and Dow Jones officials.
Absent GE and Pearson, Murdoch is likely to remain the sole bidder for all of Dow Jones, Atorino said.
If Bill Gates or Paul Allen or the Google kids ... want to write a check for X billions of dollars, that's out of my realm of probability, he said.
if you're at GE and somebody brings this deal to you, you're going to smack them in the face ... Who are these Bancrofts and why should we give them $5 billion?
Murdoch has bid $60 a share for Dow Jones. The company has sought to encourage other potential suitors to make an offer. No rival bids for the entire company have emerged, though MySpace co-founder Brad Greenspan has offered to buy a 25 percent stake at $60 per share.
Dow Jones shares fell 71 cents to $59.94 on the New York Stock Exchange. GE fell 14 cents to $38.65. News Corp.'s Class A shares fell 28 cents to $21.82. Pearson's shares fell 0.9 percent to about 831 pence on the London Stock Exchange.
(Additional reporting by Scott Malone in Boston and Jonathan Cable in London)