The UK competition watchdog has launched an investigation into Penguin Random House’s (PRH) $2bn (£1.45bn) takeover of rival book publisher Simon & Schuster.
The Competition and Markets Authority said on Monday it was considering whether the deal, which cements PRH’s position as the world’s biggest book publisher, would result in a “substantial lessening of competition within any market or markets in the United Kingdom for goods or services”.
In November, the German media group Bertelsmann announced the $2.17bn deal to acquire Simon & Schuster from ViacomCBS, less than a year after it took full control of PRH.
Bertelsmann outbid Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, which owns the publisher HarperCollins, in a contest for the company that is home to Dan Brown, Hillary Clinton and Stephen King.
The News Corp chief executive, Robert Thomson, subsequently said the deal would lead to an anti-competitive “behemoth of books” that would control one-third of the US book market. Bertelsmann has said the merged entity would have a US market share of less than 20%, making the deal clearly “approvable”.
In the US, the Authors Guild and the National Writers Union, along with four other writers’ groups and the nonprofit Open Markets Institute, sent a letter in January urging the Department of Justice to block the deal.
Simon & Schuster publishes about 2,000 books a year, on top of a catalogue of 35,000 titles, while PRH publishes 15,000 titles a year.
Bertelsmann owned Random House before acquiring Penguin from Pearson, the former owner of the Financial Times, forming PRH as a joint venture in 2013 and creating the world’s biggest publishing house. Pearson sold itsremaining 25% stake in PRH to Bertelsmann in 2019.