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Saturday, 2 June, 2001, 15:51 GMT 16:51 UK
Vivendi buys US education publisher
Vivendi boss Jean-Marie Messier
Vivendi boss Jean-Marie Messier has presided over a string of deals
French media and utility conglomerate Vivendi Universal has said it will buy US textbook publisher Houghton Mifflin.

The $1.7bn deal will make the Paris-based giant the world's second biggest publisher in the growing educational market after the British media group Pearson.

In a statement on Friday, Vivendi said it would pay $60 per share in cash for Boston-based Houghton Mifflin, a 169-year-old company and one of the few remaining large independent publishers in the US.

The company is planning to publish the controversial The Wind Done Gone on 28 June, Alice Randall's parody of Margaret Mitchell's Old South novel Gone with the Wind.

Flamboyant chief

The offer price for the fourth largest educational publisher in the US is a 10% premium over its close on Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange.

The Houghton stock, which did not trade for a short period on Friday morning due to an order imbalance, closed up $4.99, or 9.2%, at $59.55 after setting a new life high.

The purchase of Houghton Mifflin is the latest deal for Vivendi under flamboyant chief Jean-Marie Messier.

It merged with Canada's Seagram late last year.

During a press conference on Friday afternoon in New York, Mr Messier said the Houghton Mifflin deal may be Vivendi's last major acquisition as the company has practically taken all the necessary steps to become a world media player.

No redundancies

Less than two weeks ago, Vivendi said it was purchasing, which operates a music downloading website, for about $372 million to bolster its online music division.

The Houghton Miffin deal will boost Vivendi Universal Publishing's position worldwide to second spot from fifth spot in the education field, with combined annual sales at $2.2 billion, Vivendi said.

No job cuts are expected in Houghton Mifflin's 3,500 staff, Vivendi Universal Publishing vice-chairman and chief executive Agnes Touraine said during Friday's press conference.

Separately, Anglo-Dutch publisher Reed Elsevier has extended its offer for the US's Harcourt General, one of the world's largest educational publishers.

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