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EMI Group will be split in $4.1 billion sale on Universal Music, Sony/ATV

LOS ANGELES — EMI Group, the iconic British music company that is home to the Beatles, Coldplay and Katy Perry, is being split and sold for $4.1 billion.

The deal will open EMI's buyers, Universal Music and Sony/ATV, to regulatory scrutiny as they increase their dominance of the music industry.

Universal Music Group said Friday that it will pay $1.9 billion for the recording division, joining Universal artists including Lady Gaga and Eminem with EMI superstars such as David Guetta and Lady Antebellum.

A consortium led by Sony/ATV reached a separate deal to pay $2.2 billion for EMI's publishing division, according to a person familiar with the matter. That business is in charge of songwriting copyrights for such artists as Rihanna and Adele. The person wasn't authorized to speak publicly and asked not to be identified by the Associated Press.

Sony/ATV, a joint venture between Sony Corp. and the Michael Jackson estate, is a 38 percent partner in the consortium. The other parties were not immediately known.

The two-part sale, if approved by regulators, would further increase Universal Music's dominance in recorded music and springboard Sony/ATV into the top spot as a music publisher, according to Impala, an association of European independent music companies that is against the deal.

The purchases would give Universal Music and Sony/ATV undue negotiating power over artists and distributors of music, even powerhouses such as Apple Inc.'s iTunes, Impala said.

Both deals are expected to be carefully reviewed in Europe, the United States, Japan and Australia. Even if regulators approve, they could force the sale of key assets or attach other terms.

Helen Smith, Impala's executive chairwoman, noted that when Universal Music bought music publisher BMG in 2007, it had to sell some assets to get smaller.

"When you have players which are dominant, even if they take over small players in market share, that can have a serious impact on competition," she said.

Jean-Bernard Levy, CEO of Universal Music parent company Vivendi SA, told analysts on a conference call that he was "very confident" the deal would be approved in as little as 10 months.

In the United States, Universal is the top music producer with a 30 percent market share compared with EMI's 9 percent, according to Nielsen SoundScan. With a combined share of 39 percent, they would tower over Sony at 29 percent and Warner Music at 19 percent.

Vivendi believes it is swooping in to buy the troubled asset at an "inflection point" in the music industry, Levy said. Thanks to gains in digital track and album sales, overall U.S. album sales are up 5.2 percent at 360 million units so far this year, according to SoundScan. At this point last year, overall album sales had plunged 13 percent.

.Fast facts

Soon, singing together

Some of the artists who work for EMI and Universal Music:

EMI

The Beatles

Coldplay

Katy Perry

Nat King Cole

Frank Sinatra

Lady Antebellum

The Beach Boys

Snoop Dogg

Beastie Boys

Miles Davis

Norah Jones

David Guetta

Placido Domingo

Universal Music

Lady Gaga

Lil Wayne

Eminem

Justin Bieber

Enrique Iglesias

Rihanna

Nicki Minaj

Kanye West

Black Eyed Peas

Mariah Carey

Owl City

Drake

Amy Winehouse

EMI Group will be split in $4.1 billion sale on Universal Music, Sony/ATV 11/11/11 [Last modified: Friday, November 11, 2011 10:56pm]
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