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EC will take months to rule on UMG-EMI

HANDICAPPING A POTENTIAL “TWO HORSE RACE”: Following a preliminary examination, the European Commission this week privately expressed its serious doubts over the impact on competition from UMG’s $1,9 billion purchase of EMI, the Financial Times reports. technically has until today to submit concessions to eliminate these concerns and win an early green light. But so far, no “remedies” have been proposed. Those involved in the process say a full investigation, lasting roughly three months, is all but certain. The EC will announce a decision on March 23. The EC, notoriously tough, to say the least, on past proposed music mergers, is concerned that Universal’s clout could drive up prices or pose an obstacle to digital newcomers. Impala has called for Brussels to “outright reject” a deal that would turn music into a “two-horse race.” Universal says the precipitous, decade-long decline of the music industry gives the lie to more traditional notions of market power. UMG’s argument will partly rest on demonstrating that it is heavily restrained by the countervailing power of big retailers and online music services. One regulatory bargaining chip for UMG will be the €500m of assets it has pledged to sell so that Vivendi can shore up its credit rating. Another option is to specifically address concerns that new digital music services would not have fair access at a reasonable price to the Universal catalog. (3/16a)

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