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Microsoft bidding for Euro publishing giant?

If Bill's looking for content he obviously hasn't read Farmer's Weekly

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Rumours earlier in the week that the Anglo-Dutch Reed Elsevier, publisher of Computer Weekly and owner of the Lexis-Nexis database, was about to be bought by Microsoft were strongly denied here yesterday by Fokko Covers, Reed Elsevier's European Finance Director. On the Amsterdam Beurs, the shares fell back NLG 0.60 to 29.70 (two per cent) after a ten per cent gain Monday and Tuesday. In May 1997 Reed Elsevier signed a $30 million, five-year deal for Microsoft software, one result of which was the replacement of NetWare by NT in the London HQ. Last October's attempt by Reed Elsevier to merge with Dutch publisher Wolters Kluwer to create a $30 billion company failed in March, largely because of competition law concerns in Europe. The result was some uncertainty about the future management of the group, in which Reed and Elsevier both have 50 per cent. Microsoft's interest in publishers is generally viewed as a quest for content, but its experiences so far haven't been good. Gates wanted to make an investment in Dorling Kindersley, the London publisher specialising in illustrated books and multimedia, and tried to buy the company in 1992. Following a period of collaboration on CD-ROM products, independence from Microsoft was more highly valued by DK, so some 30 per cent of the company was floated in October 1992. Microsoft acquired around 25 per cent before losing interest and treating DK as a picture library. Slate, Microsoft's would-be literary e-zine, edited by Michael Kinsley (formerly editor of the New Republic, and a failed candidate for the editorship of the New Yorker recently) is very far from breaking even -- and Microsoft did not distinguish itself by failing to get a billing system working for it. Microsoft Press has been a fair success -- it could hardly fail, given its exclusive access to Microsoft documentation. But so far as a deal with Reed Elsevier is concerned, Dutch company law would make the probability of any bid being successful quite remote. An unnamed Dow Jones source was quoted yesterday as saying that Reed Elsevier and Microsoft are in discussion about a mega deal. If there is any truth at all in a closer relationship being established, our money is on it having something to do with the viagrafication of MSN in Europe, and just possibly a deal for Reed Elsevier to help improve Microsoft Press sales. ® Click for more stories.

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