UPDATE 1-EU antitrust chief hopes to settle Apple case soon

(Adds detail, Penguin)

BRUSSELS, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Apple Inc's antitrust case withthe European Union over e-book publishing could be settled in acouple of months, European Competition Commissioner JoaquinAlmunia said on Tuesday.

Almunia, the EU's antitrust chief, said he hoped to resolvesoon an investigation into Apple and four publishers over dealssetting e-book prices.

"Hopefully in the coming couple of months, we will reach asettlement," Almunia told a British Chamber of Commerceconference.

The European Commission is now market-testing an offer byApple and the publishers in a bid to end the EU probe. The fourare CBS Corp's Simon & Schuster, News Corp unitHarperCollins, French group Lagardere SCA's HachetteLivre, and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck, which ownsMacmillan in Germany.

A fifth publisher, Pearson's Penguin, was alsocharged in the investigation, but is not participating in thesettlement with the commission, which began its inquiry lastDecember.

"For a period of two years, the four publishers will notrestrict, limit or impede e-book retailers' ability to set,alter or reduce retail prices for e-books and/or to offerdiscounts or promotions," the European Commission said in itsOfficial Journal, detailing the offer under consideration.

HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Hachette reached asettlement with the U.S. government in April with similarproposals.

According to analysts at UBS, e-books account for about 30percent of the U.S. book market and 20 percent of sales inBritain, but are still negligible elsewhere.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Writing by Ethan Bilby; Editing byGerald E. McCormick and Leslie Adler)

((ethan.bilby@thomsonreuters.com)(+32 2287 6812)(ReutersMessaging: ethan.bilby.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

Keywords: APPLE EU/