Universal, Sony/ATV to buy EMI for $4.1B

Deal to draw regulatory scrutiny

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LOS ANGELES — EMI Group Ltd., the iconic British music company that is home to the Beatles, Coldplay and Katy Perry, is being split and sold for $4.1 billion.

The deals will open EMI’s buyers - Universal Music and Sony/ATV - to regulatory scrutiny as they increase their dominance of the music industry.

Universal Music Group said Friday that it will pay $1.9 billion for the recording division, joining Universal artists including Lady Gaga and Eminem with EMI superstars such as David Guetta and Lady Antebellum.

A consortium led by Sony/ATV reached a separate deal to pay $2.2 billion for EMI’s publishing division, according to a person familiar with the matter. That business is in charge of songwriting copyrights for such artists as Rihanna and Adele. The person wasn’t authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Sony/ATV, a joint venture between Sony Corp. and the Michael Jackson estate, is a 38 percent partner in the consortium. The other parties were not immediately known.

The two-part sale, if approved by regulators, would further increase Universal Music’s dominance in recorded music and springboard Sony/ATV into the top spot as a music publisher, according to Impala, an association of European independent music companies that is against the deal.

The purchases would give Universal Music and Sony/ATV undue negotiating power over artists and distributors of music, even powerhouses such as Apple Inc.’s iTunes, Impala said.

Both deals are expected to be carefully reviewed in Europe, the U.S., Japan and Australia. Even if regulators approve, they could force the sale of key assets or attach other terms.

Helen Smith, Impala’s executive chairwoman, noted that when Universal Music bought music publisher BMG in 2007, it had to sell some assets to get smaller.

“When you have players which are dominant, even if they take over small players in market share, that can have a serious impact on competition,” she said.

Jean-Bernard Levy, CEO of Universal Music parent company Vivendi SA, told analysts on a conference call that he was “very confident” the deal would be approved in as little as 10 months.

In the United States, Universal is the top music producer with a 30 percent market share compared with EMI’s 9 percent, according to Nielsen SoundScan. With a combined share of 39 percent, they would tower over Sony at 29 percent and Warner Music at 19 percent.

The deal leaves Citigroup, EMI’s current owner, with liability for its underfunded pension plan, according to two other people familiar with the talks. One put the liability at $600 million, the other said it was about $260 million.

Neither person was authorized to speak publicly, and both spoke on condition of anonymity.

Citigroup had put EMI up for sale in June, four months after it foreclosed on private equity firm Terra Firma. Terra Firma bought EMI in 2007 in a $6.8 billion acquisition financed with debt from Citigroup, but it couldn’t make enough money to keep up with the terms.

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