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Sony/ATV offers EMI concessions in Europe, as Californian Attorney General takes an interest

By | Published on Wednesday 28 March 2012

Sony ATV

While Universal Music resisted the temptation to offer concessions to competition regulators in Europe during the European Commission’s initial investigation into its proposed acquisition of the EMI record companies, it emerged late yesterday that Sony/ATV has offered concessions in a bid to allay fears about its acquisition of the EMI music publishing business.

As previously reported, Sony’s publishing company, a joint venture with the Michael Jackson estate, is leading a consortium of investors to buy EMI Music Publishing, which is likely to remain a separate entity if the takeover goes ahead.

With Sony only owning half of Sony/ATV, and Sony/ATV only owning a slice of EMI Publishing under the proposed deal, some speculated that this takeover might have a smoother ride through the regulatory process than Universal’s bid to buy the EMI labels, the Universal music company being much more closely integrated under one parent conglom.

However, even if EMI Publishing was to remain a stand-alone entity, it would still report into Sony/ATV’s leadership, led by former EMI publishing chief Marty Bandier, and the two companies would almost certainly speak as one in the all important collecting society domain, which is much more significant in the publishing sector than the record industry.

Either way, presumably by making concessions at this point, Sony/ATV are hopeful European regulators might be persuaded to green light their EMI deal without a full three month second phase investigation, like that launched with regards Universal’s EMI acquisition at the end of last week.

The EC confirmed Sony/ATV had offered concessions yesterday, but gave no details as to what exactly they were. The regulator added that the proposals would push back its phase one investigation into the Sony deal until 19 Apr, when it will announce whether the Sony-led consortium has won approval, or whether a full three month inquiry will be required for this deal too.

Sony itself revealed little about its negotiations with the EC, except to tell reporters yesterday that it and its investment partners remain “confident that the transaction will be approved”. Though those who opposed both EMI deals, which together would make the two biggest music companies in the world even bigger, remain hopeful both takeover proposals may as yet be blocked.

Meanwhile, in the US, California’s Attorney General Kamala Harris has reportedly started making her own inquiries into the two EMI deals, separate from the ongoing competition investigation being conducted in the US by the Federal Trade Commission. According to Bloomberg, Harris’s office has made contact with various people and organisations likely to be affected by the deal, though it’s not clear to what end, or what power the Attorney General would have to hinder any deal-making if both transactions were approved at a federal level.