Japanese media group Nikkei agreed on Thursday to buy the Financial Times from Britain's Pearson in a $1.3 billion deal that brings together two leading financial news operations from Europe and Asia.

The deal marks the biggest acquisition by a Japanese media organisation and is a coup for Nikkei, an employee-owned firm which also lends its name to the main Japanese stock market index.

The Nikkei newspaper, which has a circulation surpassing 3 million for its morning edition alone, enjoys a must-read reputation for financial and business news in Japan but has struggled to break out of its home market.

"I am extremely proud of teaming up with the Financial Times, one of the most prestigious news organisations in the world," said Tsuneo Kita, chairman and group CEO of Nikkei. "We share the same journalistic values."

Analysts and bankers had for years been waiting for Pearson to sell the trophy asset, although the names most closely linked with a deal were Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters. A person familiar with the situation had also recently told Reuters that Germany's Axel Springer was working on a buyout.

Reuters reported earlier on Thursday that the 171-year-old Pearson had finally decided to sell the business daily as it expanded more into education.

As the news broke of the Nikkei deal, an FT journalist tweeted a photograph showing staff in the newsroom crowded around a television watching the developments. FT Editor Lionel Barber said on Twitter he would address the staff shortly.

The sale of the FT Group, which is expected to close during the fourth quarter of 2015, does not include its 50 percent stake in The Economist magazine nor the London headquarters of the newspaper on the banks of the River Thames.

In a joint statement, Pearson said it believed the time was right for the FT, which was first printed on pink paper in 1893 to stand out from rival titles, to be part of a global, digital news company.

It had owned the paper for nearly 60 years.

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