Tuesday, 30 October 2012 12:42 PM EDT

Germany’s Bertelsmann media company and British publisher Pearson have agreed to merge the book publishing units Random House and Penguin Group, forming the new Penguin Random House company, said to be the world’s largest publisher of consumer books. Bertelsmann owns Random House, the parent company of WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, comprising WaterBrook Press and Multnomah Books.

WaterBrook Multnomah officials declined comment on the move, but the Oct. 29 merger "should have little impact" on Christian publishing, according to industry observers.

"Penguin has published some strong Christian authors, but they don’t have a Christian division," Evangelical Christian Publishers Association President and CEO Mark Kuyper told Christian Retailing. "Consolidating could prove to be beneficial for the two organizations, but I don’t see much impact for Christian publishers, stores or consumers."

Dwight Baker, president of Baker Publishing Group, said he does not anticipate "staff consolidation to the degree that HarperCollins is applying presently" to Zondervan and newly acquired sister company, Thomas Nelson.

"Multnomah ceased to function [as] an independent publisher eight years ago, and Penguin’s contributions to the Christian market are uneven," Baker said. "Neither [Random House or Penguin] controls a proprietary Bible translation.

"Now that Rupert Murdoch at News Corp. controls Zondervan, Thomas Nelson and both the New International Version and the New King James Version of the Bible, Bertelsmann perhaps did everybody a favor by placing Penguin assets beyond his reach," Baker added. "As an ongoing participant in the Christian market, Penguin’s future was uncertain anyway. Penguin announced last summer that they planned to abandon the Christian book category due to frustration over the inflated price of contracts. Coming from the offices of a major international publisher, there was some irony in that complaint."

The merger "will have little direct impact on CBA," said literary agent Steve Laube "Penguin did not have a Christian division. They do publish a select number of titles, usually by highly visible authors—T.D. Jakes, for example. … Any merger is usually done with an eye towards finding efficiencies and eliminating duplicate infrastructure. Merging the best-seller and backlist power of Random House and Penguin creates a behemoth company representing billions of dollars of book sales."

The merger is expected to close in the second half of 2013. Penguin Group Chairman and Chief Executive John Makinson will become chairman of Penguin Random House, while Random House CEO Markus Dohle will be CEO.

Under the terms of the agreement, Bertelsmann will own 53% of the joint venture and Pearson will own 47%. The joint venture will exclude Bertelsmann’s trade publishing business in Germany, and Pearson will retain rights to use the Penguin brand in education markets worldwide.

"For now, it is business as usual at Random House and Penguin," Dohle wrote in a letter to Random House authors. "Soon, we hope to join together to offer an even deeper backlist alongside our newly published titles. In our partnership, we will be even better positioned to provide copyright protection and support your intellectual property."