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British Firm Buys Test Publisher

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In a deal that marks the growing international consolidation of the educational-publishing industry, the London-based Maxwell Communication Corporation P.L.C. has agreed to buy Science Research Associates, a major U.S. test and textbook publisher.

The seller is the International Business Machines Corporation and the price is $150 million.

The Chicago firm--which publishes a widely used standardized elementary-school achievement test, as well as college textbooks and computer software--will become the "centerpiece'' of the British company's North American operations, according to Robert Maxwell, the company's chairman.

"This acquisition marks an important strategic step in furthering our goal to build a major global communications enterprise,'' he said.

Company officials said they planned to strengthen S.R.A.'s information-services and instructional programs, as well as to develop new product lines.

"We are not acquiring S.R.A. to change it, but to allow it and its people to further achieve their potential,'' said Donald L. Fruehling, president of Maxwell Pergamon Publishing Corporation, Maxwell's publishing group.

"S.R.A. will now become an integral part of an organization whose primary focus is publishing and communications,'' he said.

John E. Guth Jr., S.R.A.'s president, has been named chairman of the company. Robert C. Bowen, formerly executive vice president of the McGraw-Hill Book Company, was named to succeed Mr. Guth as president.

Maxwell Communication Corporation, the second-largest printing company in the U.S., is engaged in publishing, telecommunications, electronic publishing, and data-base management. Its publishing arm is composed of companies that produce on-line information systems, technical journals, and specialized magazines, including agricultural and defense publications. In addition, the company owns 27 percent of Donohue Inc., a major Canadian newsprint manufacturer.

The deal, which will be completed after U.S. federal regulatory waiting periods have expired, is the latest in a series of purchases of American publishing firms by international publishers.

In April, Hachette S.A., the largest publisher in France, announced that it had agreed to buy Grolier Inc., the American encyclopedia publisher. In February, a British conglomerate partly owned by Rupert Murdoch agreed to buy Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, the ninth-largest U.S. textbook firm.

Last year, Mr. Maxwell unsuccessfully tried to purchase Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Inc., another major U.S. textbook publisher.--R.R.

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