EU approves Sony's acquisition of part of EMI
BRUSSELS (AP) -- The European Union's competition regulator on Thursday approved the acquisition of part of famous British music company EMI by a group of investors led by Sony.
Sony/ATV, a joint venture between Sony Corp. and the Michael Jackson estate, and several investment funds including United Arab Emirates-based Mubadala Development Co. in November offered $2.2 billion for EMI Music's publishing businesses.
EMI's publishing arm manages the rights to songs of popular artists like Amy Winehouse, Regina Spektor and Rihanna.
To get approval for the deal from the European Commission, the buyers promised to sell the publishing rights to several music catalogues as well as the works of 12 artists, including Ozzy Osbourne, Robbie Williams, and Ben Harper.
During its review of the deal, the Commission found that without the sale of those rights, Sony/ATV would have been able to control the online licensing of Anglo-American chart hits in Europe.
"Sony and Mubadala have offered to divest valuable and attractive catalogues containing bestselling titles as well as works of successful and promising authors," said Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia. He added the sale of the publishing rights to those works would ensure "consumer choice and cultural diversity."
Rivals such Warner Music and smaller independent music labels, have warned that the deal would make Sony and Universal Music, which is buying the rest of EMI, overly dominant players in the music industry.
Helen Smith, Executive Chairman of Impala, the trade association for independent music labels, criticized the Commission's findings, saying the decision was "bad news for Europe's publishers and writers, as well as for collecting societies and any label or online service which needs to be able to rely on fair terms to use music."
In March, 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.
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.
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