Brussels clears Sony's bid for EMI music publishing

The music giant Sony's £1.4bn move to buy EMI's music publishing division has got the green light from regulators in Brussels. Insiders said the European Commission would give formal approval later today.

Brussels' decision will be a major boost as it means the Sony-led consortium avoids a costly and lengthy Phase II investigation.

Sony/ATV, an alliance between the record label and the owners of Michael Jackson's music catalogue, will need to sell off only a small number of assets to satisfy the commission. However, the consortium still needs approval from regulators in several other key territories including the US, Brazil and Australia.

Leaked documents suggest that Sony/ATV could slash as many as 60 per cent of the 515 staff at EMI Publishing, but a spokesman dismissed talk of job cuts as "premature", as the takeover is yet to be approved.

The news that Sony has got the go-ahead from Brussels is in contrast with Universal Music's separate £1.2bn bid for EMI's recorded-music division, which faces a Phase II inquiry until September.

EMI, the British label behind the Beatles, Katy Perry, pictured, and Tinie Tempah, is being broken up by Citigroup after the previous owner, Terra Firma, ran up unsustainable debts.

Critics, including Warner Music, the world's third largest label, fear the EMI break-up will give too much power to Universal and Sony, the two biggest global players. However, two American artists' unions gave tentative backing to Universal in letters to US regulators earlier this week.