Despite huge uncertainty, two publishing giants are placing a huge bet on Europe. The planned merger of Britain's Reed International plc with Holland's Elsevier will create the world's third-largest publisher in market capitalization, after Time Warner Inc. and Dun & Bradstreet Corp. Reed specializes in business and travel, Elsevier in science. The $ 4 billion combine plans major expansion, especially in publications for electronic distribution. A likely target: the late Robert Maxwell's Official Airline Guides.

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