EC urged to review Warner-EMI music deal

Chorus of Concern

BRUSSELS — The European Commission is coming under increasing pressure to conduct a full antitrust investigation into a proposed $20 billion merger between Warner Music and the EMI Group. Composers from five Nordic countries have lodged formal objections with the commission against the venture.

The composers are opposed to the merger because they believe that Warner-EMI would control nearly 50% of all music publishing in Sweden and 70% in Finland.

The joint venture also would cut the number of major music publishing houses in the world from five to four, raising fears that only a few companies will dominate the industry.

Tuneful titan

Warner-EMI would be the world’s largest music company with combined revenues of $8 billion, 2,000 albums released annually and more than 2 million song copyrights. The merging units estimate that their world music market share will be 25%, although some industry analysts warn that their joint market share could be far higher in specific national markets.

The commission’s decision on whether to further investigate the proposed union venture for another four months is due June 14.

Warner-EMI has until today to propose concessions aimed at addressing competition concerns. If the commission accepts these proposals, additional review may be prevented.

Chorus of concern

While a commission official said it was premature to speculate on whether the merger will be subject to a full four-month probe, he added that the EMI-Warner merger had drawn an unusually high number of comments and complaints. It seems increasingly likely that antitrust concerns will take the case into the summer.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has announced that it is deferring its decision on whether to subject a $127 billion proposed merger between America Online and Time Warner to an extended four-month inquiry. A decision on that is due June 19.

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