EMI suitors line up to look at its books

Len Blavatnik's Access Industries, Sony Music Entertainment and Vivendi's Universal Music Group are among the music companies and private equity firms interested in buying the music group EMI.

Potential bidders for parts or all of the 114-year-old company also include Ronald Perelman's MacAndrews & Forbes, Tom Gores' Platinum Equity, and BMG Music Rights – a joint venture between Bertelsmann and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts.

The interested parties have signed confidentiality agreements to get access to EMI's financial information so they can decide whether to enter bids, which are expected in August, sources told Reuters yesterday.

EMI, which represents artists from Katy Perry to The Beatles, is seen as one of the last attractive assets in the music industry after its closest rival, Warner Music, was bought by Access in May for $3.3bn. Analysts estimate that EMI could be sold for $2.5bn to $4bn.

The US bank Citigroup took control of EMI in February after Terra Firma, the investment company of financier Guy Hands, defaulted on a loan. Terra Firma bought EMI in 2007 in a £4bn leveraged buyout deal underwritten by Citigroup.

Although Citigroup has said it could float EMI, music insiders have long expected EMI to be broken up, with its record labels sold off separately from its songs catalogue unit.

With Sony and Universal expected to face competition problems if they bid for the whole company, Sony is expected to chase the publishing side of EMI while Universal is likely to want the recording division.

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