Sony said among suitors for EMI catalog

BloombergLOS ANGELES/NEW YORK/TOKYO (Bloomberg) — Sony Corp. held preliminary talks to acquire a majority stake in EMI Music Publishing, according to people with knowledge of the matter, as its Abu Dhabi-based owner seeks to cash in on the booming market for streamed music.

Mubadala Investment Co. has begun reaching out to potential suitors for the catalog of more than 2.1 million songs, which includes hits from Beyonce and Carole King, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private information. The Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund has held talks with Sony and approached other possible buyers, including entertainment groups and potential financial bidders, the people said.

Adding EMI’s extensive catalog would solidify Sony’s position as the largest music publisher, as paid streaming services proliferate and valuations for music copyrights soar. The Tokyo-based company already owns almost 40 percent of EMI, and operates the business.

Mubadala has signaled its intent to sell its majority holding, the people said, and plans to exercise an option that would force Sony to acquire its stake or trigger a sale of the entire company. While that process can’t formally begin until the end of June, the people said, Mubadala is already reaching out to interested parties to gauge pricing.

Mubadala is seeking a valuation of at least $4 billion for EMI, the people said, almost double what the Sony-led group, which also includes billionaire David Geffen, paid for the business six years ago. A sale may be the largest music-industry transaction since the last time EMI changed hands.

Competitors lurk

If the parties fail to reach an agreement, Sony risks losing the catalog to one of its largest competitors. Billionaire Len Blavatnik, the owner of Warner Music Group, has expressed interest in EMI, two of the people said.

Sony and Mubadala declined to comment on the talks. Sony shares were little changed in Tokyo trading.

Sony’s new Chief Executive Officer Kenichiro Yoshida has said he likes businesses with recurring revenue. Music publishing has long offered owners a steady source of cash, in contrast with the more cyclical recorded music business, which is dependent on hits and retail sales and has historically risen and fallen depending on the success of new releases in a given quarter.

The company had almost $12 billion in cash and equivalents on its balance sheet as of December, and last month lifted its profit forecast for the fiscal year through March.Speech

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