London--Reed Elsevier plc, which owns Cahners Business Information, announced Wednesday that the U.K. Competition and Consumer Affairs minister has launched a probe into its proposed acquisition of U.S.-based Harcourt General Inc., throwing a potential monkey wrench into Reed's plans to create the world's biggest medical and scientific publisher. The minister's office said the $4.46 billion deal was under investigation because of concerns that Reed would have too much power in the scientific, technical and medical publishing sector in the U.K. The decision will delay the deal for at least three months. The same goes for Toronto-based publisher Thomson Corp., which bought a portion of Harcourt as part of the deal. The U.S. Justice Department is scheduled to rule on the merger on March 20.