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Bertelsmann Eyes Thomson's Education Unit: FT

German media giant Bertelsmann has gathered together three private equity firms to consider a bid for Thomson's education unit, which has an estimated price-tag of $5 billion, the
Financial Times said.

Unnamed insiders were quoted in the newspaper on Thursday as saying Bertelsmann was eyeing Thomson Learning with the private equity groups. It did not give the names of the buy-out firms.

Bertelsmann said on Wednesday it can spend up to 6 billion euros ($8 billion) by 2010 and is also setting up a 1 billion euros private equity fund to invest in media businesses, especially in Asia and the U.S. but also Europe.

The spending drive comes after the privately owned company's self-imposed ban on acquisitions while it worked to cut debt taken on largely to buy out a 25% stakeholder last year.

Electronic publisher Thomson said in October it would put the businesses in its education unit up for sale after deciding they no longer fitted its strategy.