EU approves of Sony, BMG deal

European Union grants "effective competition"

The European Union Monday approved Sony’s plans to take full ownership of recorded music group Sony BMG.

The EU’s executive body, the European Commission said it had “concluded that the transaction would not significantly impede effective competition” in the European Union or any substantial part of it.

Company was formed in 2003 as a joint venture with Bertelsmann. Sony announced in August that it would pay $900m for Bertelsmann’s 50%. Bertelsmann also gets to keep the $300 million of cash on the company’s balance sheet, taking the total value of the deal to some $1.2 billion.

The new music company will be renamed Sony Music Entertainment Inc. (SMEI) and become a wholly owned subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America.

Europe’s independent music companies were furious at the decision. Trade association IMPALA said in a statement it was “incredible that the Commission can take such a consequential decision without carrying out an in-depth investigation.” It said small recording companies would find it hard to compete.

Sony BMG is one of the industry’s big four alongside Universal, EMI and Warner Music. Its artists include Christina Aguilera, Celine Dion, Bob Dylan, The Foo Fighters and Bruce Springsteen.

Separately, Sony BMG’s Commercial Music Group has launched a Web-based service for filmmakers and music supervisors that provides assistance in selecting music for visual media.

Titled MovieTunes, and unveiled during the Toronto Film Festival, the site allows filmmakers to submit specific criteria pertaining to music needs. From there, a Sony BMG musicologist helps the filmmaker navigate through the 2 million-plus recordings in the company’s archive. The service is free.