Tencent Holdings, is in talks to buy a stake in Warner Music Group as part of the record company’s initial public offering, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday. The paper citied “people familiar with the matter” as saying the Chinese internet giant is discussing an investment of $200 million ahead of WMG’s IPO, which was announced Tuesday and is taking place next week, according to WSJ.
WMG is also lining up other potential partners that could serve as anchor investors along with Tencent, which would contribute in excess of $1 billion toward a fundraising goal of as much as $1.8 billion, the sources reportedly said.
Contacted by Variety, reps for Warner and Tencent had no comment or did not respond to requests for comment.
Tencent led a consortium that acquired 10% of Universal Music Group, the world’s largest music company, late last year — this deal would give it a piece — although not a controlling interest — of two of the three major labels. The second-largest is Sony.
The company is expected to be valued at between $11.7 billion and $13.3 billion, and is set to begin trading June 3.
WMG’s parent company, Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries, announced on Tuesday that it has launched the initial public offering of 70,000,000 shares of its Class A common stock, pursuant to a registration statement on Form S-1 filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The initial public offering price is expected to be between $23.00 and $26.00 per share, which values the company at $13.3 billion. The offering consists entirely of secondary shares to be sold by Access and certain related selling stockholders.
WMG first announced its intention to launch an IPO in February, but shortly afterward, on March 2, delayed it when the coronavirus pandemic took effect in the U.S. and Europe. Access purchased Warner in 2011 for $3.3 billion.
While the timing of the IPO is unusual — coming, as it is, in the middle of a global pandemic — its resumption is in many ways not surprising. While Universal Music Group was recently valued at a whopping $33 billion — as part of its agreement to sell 10% of itself to a consortium led by Tencent — like most businesses the music industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic: Consequently, a Goldman Sachs report released earlier this month projects a 25% drop in global music revenue in 2020.
However, recorded-music and music publishing thus far have been less affected economically by the pandemic than live-entertainment business, which has been flattened by the bans on large gatherings, leading Goldman to project a 75% revenue plunge for the live industry this year, to $7 billion. But since the pandemic took hold in the U.S. and Europe toward the end of the last financial quarter, its impact was only beginning to be felt by most companies, thus, an impetus behind Warner’s move is likely that the company is looking to launch the IPO before the market feels the full effect of the pandemic.