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Regulators in Europe and US close to ruling on Universal/EMI

By | Published on Friday 14 September 2012


So, could Universal’s grand bid to buy the EMI record company really be entering the final phase this time? Well, it’s looking like it might be, with another key meeting due to take place in Europe next week, and the American regulator now expected to make a statement the week after that.

Universal’s planned purchase of the EMI record labels has, of course, proven rather controversial, and the mega-major has been forced to promise to sell off a sizable part of its new acquisition in order to allay fears about excessive market dominance.

We don’t now for certain what the final list of proposed divestments put to European regulators includes, though it’s thought it will involve selling the Parlophone catalogue and division worldwide, and possibly the same for the Chrysalis record company. Potential buyers – led by BMG – are already in talks with Universal, and according to the New York Post bankers at Goldman Sachs and the Bank Of America have already been appointed to advise on the sale.

Representatives from the governments of all EU member states, however, do know the final divestment proposals in more detail, having been briefed on them last week. It’s not clear what the general response of those government reps was, though it is thought key EC competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia is now smiling on the deal.

Though it’s the Director General for competition issues in the EU, Alexander Italianer, who will present the findings of the EC regulators to a meeting of European commissioners next Thursday or Friday. At that meeting Italianer will outline the proposals as they currently stand, and give his team’s recommendation, explaining how feedback from last week’s member states meeting was considered. It’s thought a final vote will then be taken at that gathering. How soon we will know the result isn’t clear, though the EC must make its final decision public by 27 Sep.

Meanwhile in the US, according to Billboard, the Federal Trade Commission is now expected to announce its final decision in the week commencing 24 Sep. Most now think that the FTC will green light the deal on the back of concessions already proposed by Universal in Europe, especially now those concessions involve divestments outside the European Economic Area, though some of the major’s opponents continue to call for the forced offloading of some US-specific EMI units.

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