Bidders tune in for fire sale of HMV Live

THE EVENTS group behind the Reading, Leeds and Latitude festivals is set to battle investment group Oakley Capital for the live music arm of ailing retailer HMV.

City A.M. understands Festival Republic, run by Melvin Benn, is interested in a deal and could make a move in a matter of days. There is no guarantee, however, it would take on all of HMV Live, which includes London festival Lovebox and 13 UK gig venues.

Oakley, the owner of Time Out, is also one of several others considering a purchase of HMV’s Live events and digital division.

Citi, which is advising HMV, has reached out to a number of investors to offer them details of the division. Sources said Citi had approached “a large number of interested parties” of which “most said yes” to the offer of more information, but the process was at an early stage.

Investment house Pacific Capital is also said to be interested but private equity firm Permira, which made a £762m bid for HMV in 2006, is not.

HMV acquired the live division for about £60m in 2007 and aims to sell it for a similar sum, but Seymour Pierce analyst Freddie George said he was sceptical, adding: “In this sort of market and in a forced sale it isn’t easy.”

HMV, which has a £163m debt pile, put the division up for sale in December as it reported a first-half pre-tax loss of £45.7m.

Citi and Festival Republic both declined to comment.