Going for a song: who is set to move for EMI?

Not long after news emerged that Terra Firma had lost control of EMI, speculation had reached boiling point over where the future of the troubled music label lies.

While a series of names emerged as potential suitors, one thing was clear: Citigroup would look to offload EMI at an early opportunity, and would not hesitate to split the label up to get the best return. "Citi has been pretty clear it is not a long-term holder and will listen to any offers," said one source close to the situation. "Their specialism is in finance not in music."

Takeover rumours have dogged EMI ever since the credit crunch, bringing the group to its knees, and leading to approaches from its industry rivals.

Warner Music Group was beaten to EMI by Mr Hands in 2007, and is seen as a potential frontrunner. Last month, news emerged that it was in talks to sell its publishing arm, which experts suggested would pave the way for a renewed tilt at EMI. Industry sources were sceptical, however: "Warner has been talked about as a potential suitor for a decade. It has never happened."

Sony Music is sure to run the sliderule over the company after its head, Rolf Schmidt-Holtz, named EMI as a potential target last year, and Simon Cowell's Syco Music, which operates under the Sony Music banner, was also linked last week. Universal Music is also believed to be interested.

The private equity powerhouse KKR attempted a joint bid for EMI with Warner, before setting up a music publishing venture BMG Rights Management. BMG is interested in the publishing operations of EMI. At the end of last year, BMG also emerged as a potential buyer for the recorded music business.

Insiders revealed that Mr Hands, the chief executive of Terra Firma, could raise another fund and buy EMI back. Despite rumours he has approached backers, "he has probably had more than enough of that business," one said.

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