Time Warner and EMI merger talks point to a deal

NEW YORK: Time Warner is going ahead with plans to merge its recorded music operations with EMI as the long-awaited consolidation of the global music business gathers speed.


Executives at Time Warner still favour a deal with EMI, The Financial Times quoted people familiar with the negotiations as saying over the weekend. This is even after Sony Music and BMG, the music division of Bertelsmann, last week signed a non-binding letter of intent to combine their recorded music operations in a 50-50 joint venture.

The Sony-BMG deal raises the prospect of the two mergers racing to win approval from competition authorities. Regulators, who in 2000 twice blocked a sale of EMI, are expected to look more favourably on a merger following the sharp decline in industry sales and the rise of Internet piracy.

However, observers believe it is less likely that they would allow the global music business to consolidate from five to three large players. Eric Nicoli, EMI chairman, and Jeff Bewkes, chairman of Time Warner's entertainment network division, had talks last week in a meeting which people familiar with the matter described as 'constructive'. Sources said EMI had promised a senior role for Roger Ames, head of Warner Music, in the enlarged group if a deal is agreed.

The talks come as EMI also considers a rival approach from a private consortium led by Edgar Bronfman, the former chief executive of Seagram, and Haim Saban, the billionaire media investor. The group, backed by private equity investors, is thought to be willing to pay more than US$2.2 billion for Warner Music's operations including its Warner Chappell music publishing arm.

EMI is proposing to pay Time Warner about US$1 billion in cash for Warner Music while giving it a 25 per cent stake in the enlarged company. The deal would allow Time Warner separately to sell Warner Chappell, valued at about US$1.2 billion.

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