Len Blavatnik's Warner Music Closing in on EMI's Artists Division (Report)

BILLY FARRELL/PatrickMcMullan.com/Sipa Press/Newscom

BMG Rights is thought likely to snap up the London-based record company's publishing business.

LONDON - Warner Music looks like favorite to win control of EMI's recorded music business after entering a bid of between $1.5-$1.6 billion for the division, with BMG Rights/ KKR bidding between $1.8 billion and $2 billion for EMI's publishing arm, according to Bloomberg.

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If the deal goes through, it would see Warner taking control of a catalog of artists including Coldplay and Katy Perry, while BMG Rights -  a joint venture between Bertelsmann and private equity house KKR - would control the publishing catalog of artists including David Bowie and The Arctic Monkeys.

Citing people close to the deal, Bloomberg said that EMI-owner Citigroup is still looking at options to split the British music company - which had proved such a disastrous $6 billion buy for maverick investor Guy Handsin 2007.

Citigroup took control of the business after Hands' invesment firm Terra Firma defaulted on its loans with the bank.

On the way he caused a slew of artists including Radiohead, Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones to leave the label dispirited by the Terra Firma management approach.

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Bloomberg said that Warner Music - which was bought by Len Blavatnik'sAccess Industries for $3.3 billion in June - is still negotiating around EMI's pension liabilities.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that the deal announcement thought likely this week has now   been pushed forward to next week.

Reuters said Warner Music was now in "pole position" after Universal Music dropped out of the auction, apparently concerned that the pension costs would overweigh the deal.

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A merge between EMI and Warner Music has been talked about for the better part of the past decade and could yet create a global player capable of taking on Universal and Sony.


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