Publishing arm aims to satisfy regulators on EMI acquisition

Moving to ensure its bid for EMI Music’s publishing holdings, a group of investors led by Sony/ATV has offered concessions to the European Union to get approval for the pending $2.2 billion deal, the EU’s competition regulator said Tuesday.

The European Commission’s announcement closely followed a Financial Times story, published late Monday, which said that Universal Music Group plans to sell three large music publishing catalogs – an offloading of assets doubtlessly tied to UMG’s $1.9 billion bid for EMI’s label assets.

The EC has now extended the first phase of its consideration of the EMI publishing sale to April 19.

The European Commission did not specify about the concessions offered by Sony/ATV, Sony Music Entertainment’s publishing arm, and its investor partners. However, they could include the sale of certain units or a commitment to change certain business practices.

According to unnamed sources cited by the Financial Times, UMG plans to sell its classical music catalog (including works by Ravel and Puccini); its Christian music unit Brentwood Benson; and Koch, a specialist in German schlager music. Collectively, the transactions were estimated at $200 million.

Last week, the European Commission’s investigation of the proposed sell-off of EMI’s label side to UMG began its second phase (Daily Variety, March 26). Acknowledging anti-competitive concerns, regulators set Aug. 8 as the deadline for a final decision.

It has long been assumed that both UMG and the Sony/ATV-led group would have to make major divestments to satisfy European regulators. The European independent music trade group IMPALA has been vocal in its opposition to the UMG-EMI deal.

The Federal Trade Commission is investigating the EMI purchases here.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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