U.S. and EU approve music mega-merger

Universal gets go-ahead for takeover of EMI
and its Beatles catalogue

Brussels - Universal Music Group got approval Friday from American and European regulators to buy the famed British music company EMI, including the hugely lucrative
Beatles catalogue. But the EU imposed stringent restrictions on the deal, forcing Universal to sell some of EMI's biggest acts, such as Cold Play and Pink Floyd.

Among EMI's assets that must go is Parlophone, home to those two British bands as well as Kylie Minogue and David Bowie.
The Beatles, which is part of Parlophone, was exempted.

Universal will also have to sell off EMI's classical-music divisions, its French and other local branches and labels that are home to Depeche Mode and The Ramones.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission said that Universal and EMI's businesses were different enough from each other that the deal wasn't anti-competitive. It added that it didn't see the need to impose the same conditions on the deal as European regulators because of the differences between the U.S. and European markets.

EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said the fact that the companies involved trade in music made the case a particularly emotional one.

"This has been one of the most difficult discussions in my life as commissioner for competition because of ... the existence not only of an industry - we are used to dealing with mergers between companies in very different sectors - but the existence of a cultural dimension," said Almunia.

The FTC's decision was the last hurdle that Universal, which already represents Jay-Z, Nirvana and U2, had to clear before it can go ahead with its $1.9 billion purchase of EMI's recorded-music division, where talent is nurtured.

Universal's rivals, like Warner Music and small independent labels, have strongly protested the deal, saying it could squeeze out other players.


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