Sony, BMG Reteam for Parlophone Label Bid (Report)

3:00 AM PST 01/07/2013 by Scott Roxborough , Georg Szalai
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Four years after disbanding their music joint venture, the two media giants are eyeing EMI assets, including the Coldplay label.

COLOGNE, Germany - Sony Corp. and German media giant Bertelsmann are looking set to team up again in a bid for Parlophone and possibly other top EMI music labels being sold off by Vivendi's Universal Music Group.

The Financial Times reported that Sony and Bertelsmann's music operation BMG will jointly bid for British label Parlophone, whose roster includes artists such as Coldplay, Blur and Kylie Minogue.

The first round of bids for former EMI assets now owned by UMG are expected in the next couple of weeks. The FT said that Vivendi is hoping to raise $640 million (£400 million) from the Parlophone auction.

The planned joint bid by Bertelsmann's BMG and Sony comes four years after the companies disbanded their joint music venture Sony BMG and is sure to add extra heat to the EMI auction.

Warner Music, which recently appointed ex-Sony dealmaker and top executive Rob Wiesenthal as COO, is expected to be an aggressive bidder for Parlophone, considered the crown jewel of the EMI assets that Vivendi's UMG has to divest.

Other possible suitors circling the label include American Idol creator Simon Fuller, who has been looking to bid together with Island Records founder Chris Blackwell with backing from RIT Capital Partners; Lava Records founder Jason Flom and former Bug Music CEO John Rudolph.

UMG won regulatory approval last year to acquire EMI's recorded music business for $1.9 billion. But approval was conditional on Universal selling off multiple European assets, including Parlophone and smaller labels such as Sanctuary and Coop.

Representatives for Sony, BMG and UMG weren't immediately available for comment.

UBS analyst Polo Tang said that EMI asset sales are important, but will come at a much-lower price than Vivendi's hoped-for sales of some of its telecom businesses. As reported, Vivendi is expected to focus on growing its media and content businesses this year, while exploring possible sales of Maroc Telecom in Morocco and GVT in Brazil.

"We see the disposals at EMI as relatively minor, with investors more focused on the divestments of Maroc and GVT, where press reports state Vivendi is seeking $7.2 billion (€5.5 billion) and $9.1 billion (€7 billion), respectively," Tang said. "We see risks that the disposal process may disappoint, with the sale of Activision pulled mid-2012 and a sale of [telecom arm] SFR now looking less likely."

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai
 

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