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Reed most likely to acquire Vivendi publishing arm

LONDON - Anglo-Dutch publisher Reed Elsevier has emerged as one of the frontrunners in the race to acquire Vivendi Universal's professional publishing business, which could fetch as much as £1.1bn.

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Other potential bidders are believed to include Bertelsmann, VNU and private equity groups Apax, BC Partners and Cinven, which is currently in negotiations to sell IPC to AOL Time Warner.

Vivendi wants to sell the business as a complete unit. Analysts believe the portfolio, which includes construction and agricultural industry magazines, would best suit Reed's stable of business titles.

The bidders have had three weeks to submit their indicative bids to Vivendi before Thursday's deadline.

The sale of the business will help the French media and communications giant to finance its acquisition of US educational publisher Houghton Mifflin, which it is buying for £1.8bn. Vivendi is selling its free classified advertising publications for the same reason.

The titles being sold by Vivendi include: Property Week and The Builder, part of the Builder Group in the UK; and Le Moniteur, the largest construction industry weekly in France.

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