Universal’s effort to buy EMI is knocked by competition probe

THE £1.2bn takeover of debt-ridden record label EMI is still just out of Universal Music Group’s reach after the European Commission yesterday issued the music giant with an official statement of objections.

Universal declined to give details of the EC’s protestations, saying in a statement: “We are preparing a detailed response to the Commission’s statement which will address the concerns outlined in this procedural document.”

Universal, which won the deal in November after fending off a rival bid from Warner, could be forced to divest parts of its empire or change the terms of its licensing agreements to appease competition concerns.

Sony’s £1.4bn bid for EMI’s music publishing arm was approved by Brussels in April after it agreed to sell off some of EMI’s catalogues.

Last week, EU competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia voiced concerns about the market power of the combined group – almost twice the size of its nearest rival in Europe – and the impact it could have on the digital music market.

EMI’s lucrative back catalogue includes The Beatles, Katy Perry and Iron Maiden.

Universal said yesterday: “We will continue to work closely with the Commission and look forward to securing regulatory clearance.”

Independent labels and rival Warner are opposing the takeover. The EC must come to a decision by 6 September.

The US Federal Trade Commission is also reviewing the deal.