UMG's BMG buy clears 2 major hurdles

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Universal Music Group's $2.1 billion acquisition of BMG Music Publishing cleared a stateside hurdle Tuesday, as the FTC and the Justice Department gave antitrust approval to the deal. The European Commission must now approve the deal, announced by Vivendi and Bertelsmann in September (HR 9/7).

UMG said in a statement: "We were confident that the regulatory authorities would find that the acquisition did not raise competition concerns, and we appreciate that the Justice Department promptly reached the same conclusion."

If European regulators approve the purchase, the melding of UMG's and BMG's publishing interests -- which now individually rank behind EMI Music's EMI Music Publishing and Warner Music Group's Warner/Chappell Music -- will create the biggest publishing unit in the world, with about one-quarter of the overall publishing business.

In July, a European court threw out the Sony BMG Music Entertainment merger, now under renewed review by the European Union (HR 7/14). However, many observers had said it was unlikely that UMG's acquisition would be considered noncompetitive because current market leader EMI controls about 22% of the market, while Warner/Chappell has about a 20% share.

 The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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