NEW YORK (Reuters) - Apollo Global Management LLC (APO.N) is in exclusive talks to buy the educational publishing unit of McGraw-Hill Companies Inc MHP.N, prevailing over rival bidders Cengage Learning Inc and buyout firm Bain Capital LLC, a person familiar with the matter said.
The exact offer price by Apollo could not be learned on Tuesday, but people familiar with the matter said previously that McGraw-Hill Education could be valued at around $3 billion.
McGraw-Hill has sought to fetch more than $3 billion from the sale and could still choose to spin off the unit as initially planned if buyout offers fall short of expectations, the people familiar with the matter said previously.
The McGraw-Hill business, the world's second-largest educational publishing company by sales, received final offers in late October from Apollo, Cengage and Bain, the people have said.
The person on Tuesday asked not to be named because details of the auction are not public. McGraw-Hill and Apollo declined to comment. News of the exclusive talks was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
McGraw-Hill has been running the auction as an alternative to its planned spin-off of the business, which distributes its textbooks in 65 languages across 157 countries.
The educational publishing unit is forecast to have $350 million in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization in 2013, according to the first source familiar with the matter. A buyout priced at a multiple of seven times EBITDA, which industry bankers see as reasonable, would imply a deal value of below $2.5 billion.
Cengage, the No. 2 U.S. college textbook publisher, was acquired by Apax Partners LLP and OMERS Capital Partners from Thomson Reuters Corp (TRI.TO), the parent company of Reuters News, for about $7.75 billion in cash in 2007.
The sale or spinoff of the education unit comes more than a year after minority shareholders JANA Partners LLC and the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan publicly urged McGraw-Hill to restructure.
McGraw-Hill, which has since streamlined its portfolio and made management changes, has said it would split into two publicly traded companies - McGraw-Hill Financial and McGraw-Hill Education.
Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Writing by Soyoung Kim; Editing by Gary Hill and Leslie Adler