December 19, 2007 / 5:56 PM / 10 years ago

No talks on HarperCollins: News Corp source

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp NWSa.N is not in discussions with Europe’s biggest media company Bertelsmann AG BERT.UL or any other party on the sale of its book publisher HarperCollins, a News Corp source said, shooting down a published report.

German business weekly publication manager magazin reported without quoting sources that Bertelsmann was interested in buying publisher HarperCollins for $1 billion, adding that Murdoch was demanding $2 billion.

Bertelsmann declined comment on Wednesday. News Corp said it does not comment on speculation.

Speculation over the sale of the News Corp division that published Nobel prize winning novelist Doris Lessing has dogged the company for years.

Bertelsmann’s new chief executive, Hartmut Ostrowski, said last week that the company, Europe’s biggest media firm, wants to spend up to 7 billion euros ($10.1 billion) to grow over the next five years.

Media reports have said Bertelsmann is looking to sell its DVD and music clubs, which generate annual sales of 2.7 billion euros, and also the group’s book business.

Manager magazin reported that Morgan Stanley was seeking interested parties for the units Bertelsmann is trying to divest.

Bertelsmann’s interests include European broadcaster RTL, publishers Random House and Gruner + Jahr, and half of music company Sony BMG, a joint venture with Sony Corp (6758.T).

Manager magazin said that Bertelsmann also wanted to sell its stake in Sony BMG.

Murdoch’s $5.6 billion deal to buy Dow Jones & Co Inc, publisher of one of the world’s most prominent newspapers, the Wall Street Journal, closed last week.

The company, which owns the Fox News Channel, Sky Italia satellite television service and Star TV in Asia, has said little about any plans to sell off its assets. Rumors of Bertelsmann’s interest in HarperCollins also surfaced in 1997.

($1=.6942 Euro)

(Additional reporting by Kenneth Li in New York)

Reporting by Rajiv Sekhri, editing by Gerald E. McCormick

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