Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Harper Fails to Capture Penguin, Now Pursuing S&S

After expressing at least theoretical interest in bidding for Penguin when that merger deal was all but finalized, News Corp. has reportedly moved to the next most likely potential target: Simon & Schuster. The WSJ, which often has a good line on parent company News Corp.'s strategy, is clear in their lead that the company simply "has expressed interest to CBS about acquiring its Simon & Schuster book business," which is a soft starting point.
To underscore that, "the people described the talks as preliminary and cautioned that a deal isn't imminent." But it does indicate that News Corp. remains interested in the possibility of adding to their trade publishing holdings as they prepare to spin all publishing (and education) into a separate company, which will naturally lead through a range of possible acquisitions. (Note there is a significant error in the WSJ piece that more than doubles Simon & Schuster's annual sales, which were $787 million for 2011.) Representatives for both Harper and S&S have declined to comment on the report.
CBS ceo Les Moonves did say to the WSJ in a video interview earlier this month, when asked for what amount they would sell their publishing division, that "we would never put a price on" Simon & Schuster, but "if someone came to us with a big offer, we would have to listen." Moonves underscored that "when you look the profits from books, they're very strong." At the end of the interview, unprompted, Moonves notes News Corp.'s late interest in Penguin and says, "If Mr. Murdoch called, I would always be interested in hearing what he had to say."
Speaking to Publishers Lunch after reporting third quarter earnings earlier in November, Simon & Schuster Carolyn Reidy said this about the pending Penguin Random House deal and the possibility of further consolidation among large trade publishers: "I'm not sure how much size gets you in a digital world," Reidy observed, noting "we're happy with our position in the marketplace. I think CBS is happy with its position in the marketplace." She said she will "be watching with fascination to see how this works out for them. Those results may be part of what determines whether a string of other consolidations follows."

*From today's issue of Publisher's Lunch

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