Sony-led group wins EU approval for $2.2 billion EMI music purchase

Bloomberg

A Sony Corp.-led group has won EU approval for its $2.2 billion purchase of EMI Group’s music publishing unit after it agreed to sell rights to chart hits by Robbie Williams and Ozzy Osbourne.

The European Commission approved the deal after the group offered to sell the global rights to EMI’s Virgin catalogs and Sony/ATV Music Publishing’s Famous U.K. portfolio, EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said Thursday.

Sony and Mubadala Development Co. “have offered to divest valuable and attractive catalogs containing best-selling titles as well as works of successful and promising authors,” Almunia said. “I am therefore satisfied that the competitive dynamics in the online music publishing business will be maintained.”

The deal will give the Sony group control of EMI’s publishing rights to classics such as “New York, New York” and “Stand By Your Man,” adding to a portfolio of songs by Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Bob Dylan. Sony/ATV, formed in 1995 and co-owned by Sony Corp. and Michael Jackson’s estate, will oversee the new firm.

The Sony consortium, which includes billionaire David Geffen, “is pleased that commission’s issues were addressed in its initial review period so that the transaction could be approved,” said Jimmy Asci, a spokesman for Sony/ATV.

The Sony group’s offer to sell the song catalogs eliminated antitrust concerns about the company’s control over online rights for chart hits by British and American artists, the EU said: “Anglo-American chart hits are an indispensable part of any online platform offering to consumers.”

Citigroup Inc. agreed in November to sell EMI Group’s recorded-music and publishing businesses in separate transactions for a combined $4.1 billion. Universal will buy EMI’s record labels for $1.9 billion, according to statements in November.