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Harcourt General on block

Textbook giant has int'l suitors

NEW YORK — Giant educational and textbook publisher Harcourt General has hired investment bank Goldman Sachs to explore a sale, as the company has become irked that “its value in the public market does not presently reflect the quality of its businesses, record results and bright prospects,” chairman Richard Smith said Monday.

Possible acquirers include Germany’s Bertelsmann, Anglo-Dutch pub-lisher Reed Elsevier (the parent company of Variety) and Thomson Corp. of Canada. U.S. rivals McGraw Hill Cos. and Houghton Mifflin along with U.K. group Pearson are also potential suitors in what would be a multibillion-dollar transaction.

The announcement pushed stock of Boston-based Harcourt up by more than 30% to nearly $55.

Harcourt posted 1999 revenues of $2.1 billion and net profits of $535 million.

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