Business

Publishing giant Pearson to vacate Belfast city centre headquarters

Millennium House on Great Victoria Street, Belfast.

PUBLISHING and education giant Pearson is to vacate its extensive office headquarters in Belfast city centre in favour of flexible workspace.

The former owner of the Financial Times officially opened a finance services centre in Belfast in 2017, in a move it said could eventually lead to the creation of 300 jobs.

The Invest NI-backed project saw the company sign up for just under 16,000 sq ft on the first floor of Millennium House next to the Europa on Great Victoria Street.

But the £330,000 per year offices are now back on the market following a post-pandemic review by Pearson that has resulted in the publishing giant officially adopting a hybrid working model.

The group confirmed to The Irish News that it’s now looking for “more flexible office space in Belfast”.

Pearson’s move to Belfast in 2016 saw the company initially share office space with business advisory group EY.

Its workforce hit the 100 mark by the time it opened the finance services centre at Millennium House in May 2017.

Pearson declined to confirm how many people it currently employs in Northern Ireland, but it continues to recruit here.

A spokesperson said 98 per cent of its employees recently expressed a preference to continue working from home with access to an office only got ‘team, social or key programme related reasons’.

In a statement, it said: “Pearson's finance services centre in Belfast remains a key strategic asset for us and the value our staff in Belfast bring to us is important.

“As announced in March, Pearson has reviewed its worldwide property strategy and footprint in light of evolving working practices and we are planning to modernise our workplaces, moving to a hybrid working model.

“As such we are looking for more flexible office space in Belfast.”

Pearson's empty 15,741 sq ft office on the first floor of Millennium House.

Pearson’s decision to set up in Belfast was backed by an offer of nearly £2 million of support from Invest NI and the Department for the Economy.

Invest NI said it has paid Pearson £741,706 in financial support to date.

The economic support agency said its support for job creation projects is offered on the basis that the jobs will be created and sustained for ‘a period of time, providing economic benefit to the Northern Ireland economy’.

“In order to receive grant payments a company must have a physical presence in Northern Ireland, together with the undertaking that jobs will be maintained in Northern Ireland,” said a spokesperson.

Meanwhile, a large are of ground floor space at The Soloist building in Belfast has been converted from retail and restaurant space into new offices.

Two blocks totalling around 13,500 sq ft of office space have now gone on the market next to The Waterfront Hall.

It follows the closure of a number of hospitality businesses on the ground floor of the building.

KPMG, Pinset Masons and Caffe Nero continue to operate in the Lanyon Place building.

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