Sony Music Entertainment is among several suitors that are seeking to acquire the live music business of HMV, the embattled entertainment retailer, for about £65m.
HMV Live's management has started making presentations to potential buyers, including Sony Music, ahead of the deadline for second-round bids later this month.
AEG, the company controlled by Philip Anschutz, one of America's richest men, and Oakley Capital, the private-equity firm behind Time Out magazine, are also bidding to buy the operator of 13 music venues and five festivals.
HMV put its live business – which runs London's Hammersmith Apollo, where Kylie Minogue is performing tomorrow – up for sale in December by hiring advisers at Citi. Potential suitors are thought only to be willing to pay a similar amount to the £64m that HMV paid for Mama Group in January 2010.
HMV initiated the sale process to help slash its debts of up to £180 million. The deadline for first-round bids was 2 March. Sony Music is one of the world's largest recorded music companies, with premier record labels, a huge back catalogue and a roster of groups, including One Direction from ITV's The X Factor.
AEG owns the O2 Arena in London's Docklands. It bought the Millennium Dome and sold its naming rights to the mobile operator O2 in 2005. HMV Live more than doubled its operating profit to £3.4 million over the 26 weeks to October 29.
When it unveiled a relaxation of its banking facilities with lenders in January, HMV forecast its net debt would be between £175 million and £180 million for the year to April 30. The group, which expects to make a full-year loss of £10 million, suffered a 9.8 per cent fall in UK like-for-like retail sales for the nine weeks to 31 December. While HMV's sales of video games have benefited recently from the demise of Game Group, the retailer still faces a huge challenge from the shift to digital downloading.
With its shares at 4.5p, HMV has a market capitalisation of just £19.1m.
All parties declined to comment.