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Sony/ATV files EMI Publishing bid with EC

By | Published on Tuesday 28 February 2012

Sony ATV

Sony’s publishing company has finally submitted its proposals to buy EMI Music Publishing to the European Commission, a week after Universal filed its paperwork with regard to its bid for the EMI record labels.

As much previously reported, Sony/ATV – a joint venture between Sony Music and the Michael Jackson estate – is leading a consortium of bidders to buy the EMI music publishing catalogue, one of the most prized catalogues in the music publishing domain. The deal needs regulator approval in both the US and Europe. Confirming the company had filed its proposals with the European Commission, a spokesman for Sony/ATV said yesterday: “[We] will continue to engage constructively with the Commission and are confident that the transaction will be approved”.

Some have speculated that the Sony deal might get through the regulatory process more quickly than Universal’s bid for the EMI labels, mainly because Sony does not own its publishing business outright, and Sony/ATV will not own EMI Publishing outright either. And early indications suggest EMI Publishing would continue to operate as a standalone company after the takeover, albeit reporting into Sony/ATV management.

That said, in Europe in particular, the publishing rights collecting society system is already under intense scrutiny, and some might worry that a duopoly in music publishing, where Universal and Sony/ATV/EMI totally dwarf their rivals, will give those two players far too much influence over the societies, and those concerns could complicate Sony/ATV’s bid. So a speedy resolution is not assured.

The independent sector and mini-major Warner Music are opposing both EMI deals. Officially they want both bids blocked outright, though Warner in particular possibly expects the deals to be approved, but wants the regulators to force Universal and Sony to sell off some parts of their new acquisitions, allowing Warner to step in and get some bargain catalogues to help it boost its own market share.

As previously reported, the initial phase of the EC’s investigation will take about a month, though it is likely a phase two will be required, which could delay a ruling by up to six months.

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