European regulators are set on Friday to approve a reduced version of the Universal Music Group’s $1.9 billion takeover of EMI Music, allowing Universal to expand its dominance as the world’s largest music company but significantly paring down its ambitions, according to several people involved in the talks.
To gain the approval of the European Commission, Universal will agree to divest itself of a third or more of the assets of EMI, the British record company that releases the music of the Beatles, Beach Boys, Katy Perry, and Coldplay, said these people, who spoke anonymously ahead of a formal announcement.
The divestments include a number of EMI’s most prominent labels in Europe, as well as classical and jazz catalogs, several of the independent labels EMI has bought over the years, and various national subsidiaries across. In addition, Universal will sell worldwide rights to release the music by the acts on those labels, including superstars like Coldplay.
Other conditions, including so-called behavioral remedies restricting Universal’s actions in the marketplace to benefit digital services and smaller labels, could also apply.
The total value of the assets to be disposed of was unclear on Thursday. They are said to generate about $450 million in annual revenue in Europe, but the global rights could add considerably more. One consolation for Universal is that it will not have to sell recording rights for the Beatles or Robbie Williams, one of EMI’s biggest acts in Britain.
The deal, which has already been cleared in Australia, Canada, Japan, and New Zealand, is being reviewed by the US Federal Trade Commission, with a decision expected in the coming days.
The takeover will advance the corporate consolidation of the music industry that has been under way for more than a decade. But for Universal and its parent company, the French media and telecommunications conglomerate Vivendi, the EMI ruling is a painful victory.
Randy Stutz, director of special projects at the American Antitrust Institute, which has asked the FTC to block the deal, said that even with the divestments, Universal’s enhanced size would pose problems for the music industry and for consumers.
‘’Maybe you can fix it so the market share figures aren’t quite as scary, but you’re still down to three major record companies on planet Earth,’’ Stutz said.