Yedioth Group in Talks to Buy Bookstore Steimatzky's

The Yedioth Ahronoth Group is negotiating the purchase of Israel's largest book chain, Steimatzky's.

There has been speculation in the publishing industry about the talks in recent days, which has caused great concern: the group already includes one of Israel's largest publishing houses, Yedioth Ahronoth Publishing, and its acquisition of the largest book retailer could constitute a substantial blow to competition in the sector.

Senior sector executives say Arie Steimatzky, the chain's owner, has been interested in selling the retailer for nearly two years. It is likely that Steimatzky made the decision due to the lack of potential heirs for the business - he has not groomed either his children or a dominant CEO. Steimatzky apparently is seeking NIS 200 million for the book chain, a price at which no buyer has been found.

Other sources in the sector said the potential merger could be beneficial for both sides due to the resulting synergy. They noted the inherent risk for the Yedioth group in the transaction, since it does not specialize in retail sales.

Another potential obstacle is getting approval from Antitrust Commissioner Dror Strum. Strum said he has not been contacted about the deal.

There have been hints of talks due to recent closer cooperation between the two sides.

Publishing sector players are concerned the merger would change the face of the industry, citing the fact that "Steimatzky is the largest book retailer in Israel and Hebrew-language daily Yedioth Ahronoth is the strongest newspaper, including its publishing house. You don't want to think a large publisher will get a clear advantage in shelf space."

Neither Arie Steimatzky nor Yedioth Ahronoth could be reached for comment by press time.