The sale of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s trade and reference group is steadily moving forward with the one remaining stumbling block being price. HMH had no comment on the report, but sources said there are four serious bidders for the group, including Hachette--widely thought to have been the early favorite--Random House, a group led by a former HMH executive, Wendy Strothman, who has the backing of a private equity firm, and an independent publishing house.

Sources said HMH parent company Education Media & Publishing Group is eager to sell the division, but must receive about 10.5 times EBITDA for the deal to go through. First bids topped $200 million. EMPG is in talks with various lenders to ease some covenants on its $6.8 billion in debt, and as part of the process the company is looking to lower its debt-to-profit ratio; if an offer for the trade group doesn’t help lower that figure, a deal would be difficult to do, sources said. A meeting between the banker running the auction and the remaining bidders is set for this afternoon.