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Penguin, Simon & Schuster ask judge to reject U.S. antitrust lawsuit – Metro US

Penguin, Simon & Schuster ask judge to reject U.S. antitrust lawsuit

FILE PHOTO: Penguin books are seen in a used bookshop
FILE PHOTO: Penguin books are seen in a used bookshop in central London

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two major book publishers told a judge a U.S. Justice Department antitrust lawsuit should be rejected, calling the government’s arguments “legally, factually, and economically wrong.”

In November, the Justice Department sued to block Penguin Random House, the world’s biggest book publisher, from buying competitor Simon & Schuster, saying the deal would give the company “outsized influence” over what Americans read.

“The merger will neither reduce that leverage nor lessen the incentives of Penguin Random House and its competitors to make aggressive offers for the most coveted books,” the companies said in a court filing Monday.

German media group Bertelsmann , which owns Penguin Random House, last year agreed to pay $2.175 billion to buy Simon and Schuster from ViacomCBS , strengthening its presence in the United States and adding novelist Stephen King, Pulitzer Prize winner Anthony Doerr and veteran journalist Bob Woodward to its stable of authors.

In its complaint filed in federal court in Washington, the Justice Department said the deal would give “outsized influence over who and what is published, and how much authors are paid for their work.”

The complaint stressed the importance of the companies competing for top-selling books as well as the money earned by authors who write them.

The booksellers said the Justice Department “wants to protect the most successful authors, those with sophisticated agents and the most lucrative book contracts.”

If the merger were completed, the deal would give Penguin Random House nearly half of the market for publishing rights to blockbuster books while its nearest competitors would be less than half its size, the complaint said.

The book publishers added the Justice Department did “not allege that the merger will reduce competition in the market for book sales or raise prices for consumers.”

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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