UMG: Firm will reach higher note this year

Co. reported revs down 21%, upbeat over album slate

NEW YORK — Universal Music Group chief Doug Morris is predicting the company could boost its market share by 4% this year.

Morris and several UMG execs spoke to analysts in London on the first leg of a three-city briefing tour intended to bolster confidence in UMG’s long-term prospects.

Company said it believes its current album slate is strong enough to help the world’s largest record group outperform the still-contracting recorded music market.

Vivendi, which is due to report first-quarter revenues early next month, indicated that music sales in the U.K. were flat for the quarter, while Germany, France and Japan continued to see declines.

Market-share gains are still the major barometer of success in an industry where total sales dropped 7.6% last year amid erosion from piracy and more competition from alternative entertainment outlets.

Company holds the market-share lead in the U.S. with 28.1% of record sales.

UMG reported revenues down 21% last year to $6.08 billion due to adverse currency exchange rates, fewer top releases and the general slowdown in global record sales. Restructuring costs at the division also hurt the bottom line, as operating income fell 87% to $85.6 million. But the cost-cutting regimen is expected to pay off when company reports first-quarter financials May 5.

UMG will be one of two main media assets (along with pay web Canal Plus) that parent company Vivendi will control once it sells Viv U Entertainment to NBC next month.

(Bloomberg News contributed to this report.)

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