EU sets July 5 deadline for Universal/EMI response: sources

Wed Jul 4, 2012 9:04am EDT
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By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Universal Music Group has been given two extra days to allay EU concerns on its planned purchase of an EMI unit, two people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday after regulators warned that the combined entity would hit competition.

The European Commission, which has been assessing the $1.9 billion deal since February, had originally given Universal until July 3 to reply to concerns set out in a 194-page statement of objections sent last month.

Vivendi-owned Universal requested an extension and has been given until Thursday night to respond, one of the persons said.

The music company could offer to sell catalogues or offer better licensing deals to rivals to reassure regulators.

Universal, whose stars include Lady Gaga, Rihanna and U2, is seeking to buy EMI's recorded music catalogues which include The Beatles and Katy Perry. The combined company would be almost twice the size of its nearest rival in Europe.

The EU watchdog expressed strong concerns about the deal, saying it was incompatible with the European Union's internal market and would completely change the market dynamics, a person sources who has seen the document told Reuters earlier this week.

The Commission also dismissed Universal's arguments that the threat from piracy and the bargaining clout exerted by customers such as Apple's iTunes, Amazon and other online music services would limit its power, the person said.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by Rex Merrifield)

A man enters EMI offices in west London August 18, 2010. REUTERS/Toby Melville