Universal Gets EU Antitrust Complaint on EMI Bid Concerns

Vivendi SA (VIV)’s Universal Music Group said it received an antitrust complaint from European Union regulators citing concerns over its bid for EMI Group’s recorded-music business.

The European Commission has “provided us today with a statement of objections,” Adam White, a spokesman for Universal in London, said in an e-mail. “We will continue to work closely with the commission and look forward to securing regulatory clearance.”

Regulators have a Sept. 6 deadline to rule on the bid by Universal, which they have said would create a company “almost twice the size of the next largest player” in Europe. Universal may not be sufficiently constrained by smaller competitors, customers’ buying power or illegal music downloads, the EU said when it opened an in-depth probe in March.

A statement of objections sets out regulators’ case for blocking a deal. Companies may seek an oral hearing and can offer to sell assets to resolve any concerns. The EU has blocked two deals in the last two years, including Deutsche Boerse AG’s bid for NYSE Euronext.

Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for the European Commission in Brussels, declined to comment on the statement of objections.

Joaquin Almunia, the EU competition commissioner, said earlier this month companies in the music industry shouldn’t “be in a position to shape the future landscape in the digital music market to the detriment of users and artists.”

White said Universal is preparing a detailed response to regulators’ concerns.

Citigroup Inc. (C) agreed in November to sell EMI Group’s recorded-music and publishing businesses in separate transactions for a combined $4.1 billion. Universal will buy EMI’s record labels, home to Katy Perry and Coldplay, for 1.2 billion pounds ($1.9 billion). A Sony Corp.-led group that includes billionaire David Geffen will pay $2.2 billion for the publishing unit, according to statements in November.

Sony won EU approval to buy EMI’s publishing unit in April after agreeing to sell rights to hit songs.

To contact the reporter on this story: Aoife White in Brussels via awhite62@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net.

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