Sony offers EU concessions in EMI deal

By Gabrielle Steinhauser , AP

BRUSSELS–A group of investors led by Sony has offered concessions to the European Union to get approval for its deal to buy part of iconic British music company EMI, the bloc’s competition regulator said Tuesday. Sony/ATV, a joint venture between Sony Corp. and the Michael Jackson estate, and a group of other investors said in November that they will buy the publishing arm of EMI Music for US$2.2 billion. EMI’s publishing arm manages the rights to songs of popular artists like Amy Winehouse, Regina Spektor and Rihanna. The European Commission did not give details on the concessions Sony and the others had offered, but they could include the sale of certain units or a commitment to change certain business practices.

Rivals such Warner Music and smaller independent music labels, have warned that the deal will make Sony and Universal Music, which is buying the rest of EMI, overly dominant players in the music industry. Last week, the European Commission opened an in-depth investigation into the Universal deal, warning that its acquisition of EMI’s recorded-music arm could hurt customers and other market players. Crucially, the Commission said that even illegal music downloads don’t appear to be a sufficient threat to the combined companies’ market power. The Commission said that it will now take until April 19 to decide whether the concessions offered by Sony and the other investors are sufficient to clear the deal or whether it wants to also launch a deeper probe of that part of the deal. In a joint statement, Sony and the other investors said they remained “confident that the transaction will be approved.” EMI, which became famous for recording The Beatles, was put up for sale by Citigroup last summer, after the bank foreclosed on private-equity firm Terra Firma, which bought the music company in 2007.