LONDON (AP) _ Pearson PLC, the British conglomerate which publishes the Financial Times, said Tuesday its profit rose about 6 percent in the first half of the year due mainly to strong trading profits from its core businesses.

In the six-month period ended June 30, Pearson's net earnings rose to 54.9 million pounds, or $86.1 million, from 52 million pounds.

Pearson, which has interests in publishing, banking and fine china, said earnings per share weakened 10 percent to 21.4 pence, or 33.5 cents, from 23.8 pence, in response to the issue of 14 million new shares in the first half to help fund acquisitions.

Following the earnings report, Pearson shares fell 16 pence, or 25 cents, to 7.94 pounds on the London Stock Exchange.

Pearson did not break out quarterly results. It is not required to do so under British law.

Pearson said its board would recommend an interim dividend of 9 pence a share, up 20 percent from 7.5 pence a year earlier.

Pearson Chairman Lord Blakenham said the company tends to earn more of its profits in the second half of the year.

Sales for the group climbed 29 percent to 641.4 million pounds, or $1 billion, compared with 496.2 million pounds a year ago.

Excluding property profits and businesses acquired or disposed of in the last 18 months, Pearson said its trading profit advanced a healthy 22 percent in the interim period compared with a year earlier.

Pearson reported particularly strong performances from investment banking, fine china, and its printing and publishing businesses.

Interest charges, however, jumped to 12.5 million pounds from 3.8 million pounds, reflecting rising acquisition costs.

Pearson recently completed the acquisition of the Paris financial daily newspaper Les Echos and raised its stake in the Dutch company Elsevier NV to 22.5 percent. Pearson estimated that its stake in Elsevier chipped in around 12 million pounds to trading profits.

The operating profit growth from Pearson's investment banking rose to 16.6 million pounds from 12.2 million pounds. Its book publishing arm lost 1.5 million pounds compared with a profit of 9.6 million pounds last time.