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DOJ Protects College Students from Potential Anticompetitive Effects of Textbook Publishers’ Merger

Posted by : Matthew Wild | On : June 21, 2008

On May 28, 2008, the Antitrust Division required divestitures as a condition of its approval of Cengage Holdings’ $750 million proposed acquisition of Houghton Mifflin College Division. Both companies publish college textbooks. The Antitrust Division defined the relevant product market as textbooks in courses on particular subject matters. The Antitrust Division alleged that students had no significant alternatives to new textbooks in these courses because, for example, used textbooks are not consistently available in large numbers. The Antitrust Division limited the relevant geographic market to the United States but did not explain why foreign publishers could not compete effectively. The Antitrust Division calculated that in 14 overlapping courses, the minimum post-merger HHI would be 3,000 with a delta of 500. The Antitrust Division concluded that high barriers to entry exist because instructors infrequently switched textbooks and therefore it would be unlikely that a publisher would invest in the authors and editorial staff necessary to write a new textbook. The Antitrust Division’s Press Release and Competitive Impact Statement are attached. DOJ Press Release (Cengage/Houghton Mifflin); Competitive Impact Statement (Cengage/Houghton Mifflin).

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