Or Will It Be Three ...?
With news of a Sony / BMG music business merger that would make the Big Five the Bigger Four, "intense and constructive" talks between Britain's EMI and Time Warner could lead to an Even Bigger Three.
This would, of course, also mean the record labels, which call the shots in the US via their RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) would all be foreign owned. At the moment, Warner's 'membership' prevents that.
"EMI, the world's third largest music company, has secured debt financing for a $1.6bn-$1.7bn (£950m-£1bn) cash and shares bid for Warner Music, the recorded music arm of Time Warner," says a Financial Times story here. "Eric Nicoli, EMI chairman, is due to discuss the offer with Jeff Bewkes, chairman of Time Warner's entertainment and network division, in New York before the end of the week."
The FT says a group of banks led by Citigroup, Royal Bank of Scotland, Goldman Sachs and UBS Warburg has agreed financing commitments for the $900m-$1bn cash element of the deal. If it's finalised, "Time Warner will receive up to 25% of the enlarged group, worth about $800m. The final terms of the transaction will depend on due diligence on Warner Music, which reported a $9m loss on sales of $2.92bn in the first nine months of the year."
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The EMI Time Warner talks were said to be "intense and constructive" following several weeks of meetings between the two sides, says the FT, going on, "People who are familiar with the negotiations said a deal could be completed in the next two to three weeks. But they cautioned that several issues still needed to be resolved.
"The talks represent Time Warner's latest attempt to solve the strategic questions surrounding its music business, which has been hit by falling sales caused by the spread of illegal music downloading."
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