EU To Rule On BMG Music Sale Dec. 8
European Union (EU) regulators set a Dec. 8 deadline to rule on Universal Music Group’s plans to buy BMG Music Publishing for $2.09 billion. Vivendi SA’s Universal is the world’s largest music company and BMG, owned by German media company Bertelsmann AG, has the rights to more than a million songs by recording artists such as Nelly, Maroon 5 and Coldplay, as well as classic hits by the Beach Boys, Barry Manilow and other entertainers.
Its purchase of BMG Music Publishing must be cleared by both EU and U.S. regulators. It is likely to face careful scrutiny in Europe after an EU court in July overturned the European Commission’s go-ahead from a merger between the music units of Sony and Bertelsmann AG.
That deal â€” reducing the number of major record companies from five to four â€” must be re-examined and analysts warned it could raise the stakes for similar mergers. The Commission has already said it had to watch the music sector closely to check that antitrust rules are not being broken.
EMI suspended $4.6 billion takeover talks with U.S. rival Warner Music Group after the court ruling since it cast doubt on whether an EMI-Warner deal would receive regulatory approval. The Court of First Instance â€” the EU’s second-highest court â€” said regulators had not properly shown that there was a monopoly in the recording industry before the deal or that there would not be one afterward.
It also said the Commission did not explain why it dropped earlier charges that the deal could exacerbate “tacit collusion” in the industry, leading to higher CD prices and less choice for consumers in a market where there is already too little competition.