Universal Music put into play by a £5.6bn offer

 
David Hellier
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THE FUTURE of the world’s largest music group, Universal Music, was thrown into uncertainty last night after it emerged that the Japanese telecoms group Softbank had made an $8.5bn (£5.6bn) offer for the firm.

Universal’s parent company Vivendi, which is trying to sell telecoms assets, declined to comment yesterday and therefore did not explain why it turned down what appeared to be a full offer for the asset around three months ago.

Universal, which is led by the British-born music veteran Lucian Grainge, bought the bulk of EMI’s music assets last year when they were sold off in an auction.

Music industry experts said yesterday that the Softbank bid appeared to be fairly high for an opening shot.

They said it showed how far the company had come after a rocky period during which valuations of music groups had been adversely affected by piracy.

More recently there has been evidence of a strong growth in digital revenues, which has changed the outlook for the sector.

Vivendi is likely to be quizzed by shareholders over its decision to turn the offer down, sources said. Universal is home to the like of Justin Bieber, the Killers and Rihanna.