By Jeffrey Goldfarb
LONDON, March 20 (Reuters) - Dutch publisher Wolters Kluwer (WLSNc.AS) is in final talks to sell its education unit with an agreed deal expected this week at about 750 million euros ($996 million), people familiar with the situation said on Tuesday.
The final discussions are with one publishing company and one private equity firm, said the sources, who requested anonymity because of the confidential nature of the talks.
It was unclear which publisher made it through to the final round, though French education publisher Editis, which is owned by Wendel Investissement (MWDP.PA), and Nordic media group SanomaWSOY SWS1V.HE together with a partner were seen as the likely frontrunners, the sources added. Private equity firm Bridgepoint Capital also remains in the hunt, they said.
The price tag escalated beyond some bidders’ expectations of about 700 million euros, the sources said, knocking out Pearson Plc (PSON.L), the world’s biggest educational publisher, and other private equity bidders.
A deal is expected as early as Wednesday, but the sources cautioned that talks were ongoing, and that the final bidders and timing might change.
“Things have been moving and shifting quickly, but there should be something very soon,” one of the sources said.
Wolters Kluwer confirmed on Friday that it plans to sell the slow-growth education unit after reviewing multiple options with its financial adviser Lehman Brothers for months. It declined to comment about the process on Tuesday.
“We never comment on these kinds of things and speculation so unfortunately I cannot comment,” SanomaWSOY’s education unit head Jacques Eijkens said. “That is the policy of the company.”
Wendel Investissement, Bridgepoint Capital and Pearson also declined to comment.
Wolters Kluwer’s education arm generated 316 million euros of revenue last year. It is active in primary, secondary and vocational education in seven European countries, including the Netherlands, Sweden, Britain and Germany. The unit has about 1,450 employees.
(Additional reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta in Paris and Sami Torma in Helsinki)
((Reporting by Jeffrey Goldfarb, editing by Erica Billingham; Reuters Messaging: firstname.lastname@example.org, tel: +44 207 542 8793, email: email@example.com))
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