EMI bidders told to make best offer by Oct. 5


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EMI Music’s owner, Citigroup, has asked a select group of bidders to submit their best offers for the storied British music company by Oct. 5, according to executives familiar with the auction.

The bank, which took over EMI in February and formally put the company up for sale in June, has been entertaining preliminary bids from private equity firms, such as Platinum Equity, as well as other music companies, including Warner Music Group, Sony Corp., BMG Chrysalis and Universal Music Group.


Some bidders, such as Warner and its new owner, Access Industries, are said to be interested in buying the entire company, but others want only parts of EMI, said people familiar with the process. Sony and BMG, for example, are primarily after EMI’s publishing business, which represents songwriters such as Beyoncé, Alicia Keys and Kanye West. Meanwhile, Universal has its eye on EMI’s recorded music division, whose labels represent artists including the Beatles, Katy Perry and Coldplay.

Citigroup, seeking to maximize the amount of cash it can get even if that means selling EMI in parts, has encouraged both types of bids.

EMI’s publishing unit is smaller, but generally has been more profitable than the recorded music side of the business. EMI publishing accounted for 29% of the company’s revenue but 45% of the company’s total operating margin in its fiscal year ended March 2010, the last year in which its finances were publicly disclosed.

Altogether, EMI could fetch well north of $3 billion and could surpass $3.5 billion, said executives familiar with the bids.

EMI, with its sale expected to wrap up before the end of the year, would be the second major music company to be sold this year, following Access Industries’ acquisition of Warner in May for $3.3 billion in cash and debt.

An EMI sale to another major music company such as Warner, Universal or Sony would reduce the number of big record labels from four to three, down from six in the late 1990s.



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-- Alex Pham

Twitter/ @AlexPham