Cengage, the No. 2 U.S. college textbook publisher, and the two private equity firms are working on final offers for McGraw-Hill Education, the world's second-largest education company by sales, with the bids due later in October, the people said.
McGraw-Hill, which is running the auction as an alternative to its planned spin-off of the business, wants to get more than $3 billion and could still decide against a sale if the bids fail to meet its price expectations, the people said.
Other private equity firms that submitted initial bids this summer, such as Thomas H. Lee Partners LP and Providence Equity Partners, dropped out because the asking price was too high, according to the people familiar with the matter.
McGraw-Hill, Cengage, Apollo, THL and Providence declined to comment. Bain did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
(Reporting by Soyoung Kim, Nadia Damouni and Greg Roumeliotis in New York)