Cover Stories: Ottakar's founder admits defeat as he recommends HMV's offer

The Literator
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The Independent Culture

But an HMV takeover is the most likely outcome, even after the Office of Fair Trading has glanced at the bid. The merged entity of 325 shops would have just under a 25 per cent share of book retailing, but very much more among specialist stores. Publishers, still locked in a bitter battle over terms with W H Smith, are broadly against a takeover, rightly fearing the additional power it would give to the already rapacious Waterstone's at a time when the chain can no longer be counted on to support a wide range of books. Authors are wringing their hands in horror, wary of a further concentration of buying power that would narrow the selection process.

The sad assumption is that HMV will prevail, even though the move is predatory, against the wishes of Ottakar's staff and many shareholders. Waterstone's would surely close branches in the 30-odd locations where the chains double up. Beyond that are the problems with which the HMV chain itself grapples, as CD sales decline. Does HMV chief exec Alan Giles really have time to devote to streamlining "Wottakar's"? Meanwhile, Borders, the newest kid on Britain's bookselling block, continues to expand its store portfolio and deepen its range. It will doubtless benefit.

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