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Reuters

Overview

This profile considers the Reuters news, financial data services and IT research group.


It covers -

  • the group
  • holdings
  • the founder
  • the Jones era
  • studies

Information about other news and data services is here.

The group

Reuters dates from a text news service founded by Julius Reuter. In the second half of last century it expanded to encompass television news and has become increasingly prominent as a provider of real-time and archival financial information services, in competition with Dow Jones and Bloomberg.

During the late 1990s it acquired majority or minority stakes in a range of information technology research consultancies such as Yankee Group and specialist market information services such as Datamonitor.

As of 2000 the group employed around 2,150 journalists, photographers and camera operators in 190 bureaus, serving 151 countries, with additional personnel in units such as Yankee. Overall staffing was 18,082 people in 204 cities in 100 countries, with group revenues of US$5.4 billion.

In 2005 it has expanded its image operations with the multimillion pound takeover of the London-based Action Images sports photography agency. That deal provided an archive of seven million sports images stretching over 50 years, with over 1.5m accessible online.

Holdings

Reuters holdings apart from the core news and financial data services include -

  • corporate info services
  • Reuters owns 100% of ORT, the dominant provider of corporate information in France with a major database covering 4 million business entities in France.
  • healthcare sector
  • Paris-based Agence Presse Medicale (APM) is concerned with the French B2B professional healthcare market. Its clients range from hospitals and insurers to pharmaceutical companies. APM provides real-time newswire services for nine healthcare niche markets.
  • Reuters Health Information Inc. (RHI) provides global health and medical daily news services for professionals and consumers.
  • other market analysis
  • It has a minority stake in Datamonitor, claimed as Europe’s largest market analysis company, offering information on a subscription basis about the energy, healthcare, financial services, consumer goods, medical equipment, automotive and high technology sectors.
  • IT research and consulting
  • Reuters has a majority stake in high-profile US-based consultancy Yankee Group. Yankee is concerned with information technology research and strategic consulting, including electronic commerce, wireless communications, computing and enterprise applications.
  • It also has a majority stake in US-based TowerGroup, a research and strategies consultancy concerned with information technology for the global financial services sector, including retail and wholesale banking, securities and investments, insurance, electronic payments, the mortgage industry and the net.

The founder

Founder (Paul) Julius de Reuter (1816-1899) was born Israel Beer Josaphat, third son of the provisional rabbi of Kassel. After working as a clerk in an uncle's bank in Göttingen he moved to England in 1845, where was baptized as Paul Julius Reuter. In 1847 he became a partner in Berlin bookshop and publisher Reuter & Stargardt but encountered difficulties over distribution of radical pamphlets at the beginning of the 1848 revolution and moved to Paris, becoming a translator in Charles Havas' news agency. He exploited the 100 mile gap between the Franco-Belgian telegraph and German network, using carrier pigeons to beat the mail train and moved back to London in 1851, establishing an office to transmit information between the London and Paris stock exchanges. He was naturalised in 1857.

In 1858 he persuaded the Morning Advertiser to trial his news service and thereafter expanded aggressively, opening offices across the globe (eg in Alexandria in 1865 and in Bombay in 1866) in pace with development of international telegraph networks. In 1865 he floated Reuters as a £250,000 public company to lay its own line to Germany, making a large profit when that line was nationalized. set up the Central Press Agency, the first of its kind. An agreement made with Reuters

Reuter sought success through effective marketing, investment in infrastructure and personnel, and cooption of competitors. In 1868 he gave the Central Press Agency - a domestic news service founded in 1863 by newspaper proprietor William Saunders (1823-1895) - a monopoly outside London. In 1870 he formed a global alliance with Havas in Paris and Wolff in Germany (later extended to the US Associated Press service). In 1871 he was ennobled by Ernst II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha, as Baron von Reuter, being known as Baron Julius de Reuter.

The following year saw him secure from the Shah of Persia a concession for exploitation of irrigation, forestry, mineral rights, customs administration, banking, road and railway building rights, albeit rescinded shortly after pressure by Russia. Reuter retired in 1878, handing control to son Herbert de Reuter (1852–1915).

The Jones era

Reuters' South African executive Roderick Jones (1877-1962) assumed control of the ailing group in 1915 after Herbert de Reuter's suicide in 1915. Jones secured covert backing by the UK government, wound up the public company and became chief executive, chairman and principal shareholder of a new Reuters private company. His work in the Ministry of Information was recognised with a KBE in 1918.

Jones recognised that Reuters was not viable as a vendor of general news, a difficulty shared by Havas, Wolff and other agencies - particularly in the face of competition from the US United Press and Associated Press agencies. He accordingly emphasised global development of financial and commodity information services, which Donald Read notes began to subsidise general news, and use of technologies such as wireless.

The Press Association, representing UK provincial newspapers, bought into Reuters in two stages in 1926 and 1930. Jones quietly made a fortune from sale of his stake, while publicly proclaiming that the PA move was in the imperial and UK public interest. He was forced out in 1941 after disagreements over news management arrangements with the UK government. Reuters was reorganised at that time as the Reuters Trust, as cooperative controlled by the London and UK provincial papers (the national newspapers acquired 50% of Reuters from the PA at that time). The Australian Associated Press and New Zealand Press Association become co-owners in 1947

section marker icon studies

There has been no major biography of Julius and Herbert de Reuter. The Power of News: The History of Reuters (Oxford: Oxford Uni Press 1994) by Donald Read is a concise corporate history of the information company.

For a self-regarding view see Roderick Jones' A Life in Reuters (1951), offset by the account in James Lees-Milne's multi-volume diaries. Memoirs by Reuters correspondents and managers include Henry Collins' From Pigeon Post to Wireless (1925).

Breaking News: How The Wheels Came Off at Reuters (Oxford: Capstone 2003) by Brian Mooney & Barry Simpson is an account of the group's travails over the past decade.

Read and Mooney can be supplemented by works such as Jonathan Fenby's The International News Services (New York: Schocken 1986) and Robert Desmond's The Information Process: World News Reporting to the Twentieth Century (Ames: Iowa State Uni Press 1978).

The Price of Truth: The Story of the Reuters Millions (Edinburgh: Mainstream 1985) by John Lawrenson & Lionel Barber covers the float. Roderick Jones's oleaginous A Life in Reuters (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1951) is very much a view from inside a well-carpeted room at the top of the organisation