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Sony-led Group Seeks EU Approval for EMI Publishing Deal

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A Sony Corp.-led group sought European Union approval for its $2.2 billion purchase of EMI Group’s publishing unit, a deal that will create the world’s second-biggest music catalog.

The European Commission set an initial deadline of April 2 to rule on the deal, it said on its website today. Sony said yesterday it made the merger filing and was “confident that the transaction will be approved.”

The deal would give the Sony group control of EMI’s publishing rights to classics such as ‘New York, New York’ and ‘Stand By Your Man,’ adding to Sony’s portfolio of songs by Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Bob Dylan. Sony/ATV Music Publishing, the joint venture formed in 1995 that is co-owned by Sony Corp. and Michael Jackson’s estate, will oversee the new business.

Impala, a group of independent record labels, said EU regulators should block both the Sony deal as well as Vivendi SA’s Universal Music Group’s bid for EMI’s recorded music business, because they would increase prices and reduce competition in the music industry. Impala challenged the EU’s 2004 approval for Sony and Bertelsmann AG to create the Sony BMG record label at the EU courts, forcing a reexamination by regulators. The deal was eventually approved in 2007.

Sony’s acquisition of EMI “would increase its negotiating power to an unacceptable extent” over collecting societies that gather and distribute revenues for copyright owners and in negotiating operating terms for the industry, Impala said in an e-mailed statement.

The Sony consortium includes billionaire David Geffen and the Mubadala Development Co., Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund. Geffen, 68, made his fortune founding and selling Asylum Records and Geffen Records.

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