Universal Music has already announced that it will pay $1.9B for the recorded music operation. We’re told Sony’s teed up to disclose that it landed EMI’s music publishing business for $2.2B. The deals end a drawn-out process to decide the fate of a company whose hitmakers include The Beatles and Katy Perry. But the companies may face tough questioning from European antitrust officials, and possibly U.S. ones as well. Impala, which represents independent European music companies, said this week that deals with Universal and Sony — two of the industry’s largest companies — “would be the worst possible outcome of the EMI negotiations — for music, those who make it and those who want to access it.” Citigroup has made it clear to bidders that it expects to be paid no matter what; buyers would have to assume all the financial risks for any deal that’s blocked.
If the transactions go through, then it could mean big problems for Warner Music, which industrialist Len Blavatnik bought for $3.3B early this year. “Warner’s really small now” compared to Universal and Sony, says one long-time industry exec. “They’re the third port of call for every artist, and won’t have the same leverage with Walmart for shelf space.” The publishing deal with Sony also raises questions for BMG, which has been on an acquisition tear with financial support from private-equity firm Kohlberg Kravis & Roberts. BMG has wanted to build scale, and a deal with EMI — the No. 1 music publisher — would have capped that effort. Some industry players wonder whether KKR now will look to sell its interest in BMG. (more…)