OUP to notify OFT on Nelson Thornes buy

OUP to notify OFT on Nelson Thornes buy

Oxford University Press has confirmed that it will notify the Office of Fair Trading about its acquisition of Nelson Thornes, estimated to give the publisher nearly a third of the education market share. However, OUP said it was confident that there were "no significant competition concerns, and that schools, teachers, and students will continue to benefit from a wide range of high quality and competitively priced resources."

OUP announced the acquisition from Infinitas Learning on Monday (21st January), with the price undisclosed. Graham Taylor, the Publishers Association's director of educational, academic and professional publishing, estimated the new combined team would take a third of the market share for the educational market, while a further third was in the hands  of Pearson.

OUP said Nelson Thornes would "initially" act as a standalone company, retaining its brand and its Cheltenham headquarters, and so will not benefit from OUP's charitable status and consequent tax advantages. When asked to clarify the meaning of "initially", the publisher responded: "The priority for now is to understand the business, how it is performing, and to establish an operating model for delivering the goals set for the coming year."

Hodder Education managing director Lis Tribe said the deal made sense. She commented: "OUP is strong in primary and has reasonable secondary, and Nelson Thornes has reasonable secondary. So put them together and they have a strong secondary, and a considerable market share overall. From our point of view it was not a surprise; Nelson Thornes was overdue for sale.

We are confident it doesn"t affect what we intend to do and our business. We are feeling quite calm."

Nelson Thornes is expected to keep its current workforce, though Richard Hodson, previously OUP's international business director of OUP's UK schools and children's division, has been appointed as its new m.d., succeeding Paul Howarth who moves to a new role within Infinitas Learning.

Taylor said that the consolidation had taken place against a backdrop of significant change in the education sector. He said: "There is consultation on the new national curriculum and there is likely to be a shake-up of the examination system from 2015, so there are many changes coming up in the market, but a time of change is a time of opportunity for publishers."