EU regulators to decide by October 26 on Sony's $2.3 billion bid for EMI

Kazuo Hirai, president and CEO of Sony Corporation, speaks during a news conference at the 2018 CES in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. January 8, 2018. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Sony Corp will know by Oct. 26 whether EU antitrust regulators will wave through its $2.3 billion (1.7 billion pounds) offer for control of EMI to become the world’s largest music publisher, according to a filing on the European Commission website on Monday.

Sony, which announced the deal in May, sought EU approval for the deal last Friday.

The proposed acquisition is the boldest strategy move by its new CEO Kenichiro Yoshida, which would give it rights to 2.1 million songs from artists such as Drake, Sam Smith, Pharrell Williams and Sia.

EU antitrust enforcers can clear the deal with or without concessions or open a four-month investigation if they have serious concerns.

The Japanese group, which currently owns a 30 percent stake in EMI, wants to buy Mubalada Investment Co’s 60 percent stake. In July, it acquired the estate of Michael Jackson’s minority share of EMI.

The music industry has grown in recent years, driven by the popularity of fixed-price music streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, SoundCloud and YouTube.

Independent music labels group Impala has criticised the Sony deal, saying it would give the company too much market power in both its recording and publishing catalogues, allow it to promote its global repertoire both on radio and in playlists, and be better able to attract songwriters with better terms.

“This transaction would disrupt competition and harm consumers in an already overly concentrated music market. Given recent precedents set by the European Commission, we believe Sony’s takeover will face stiff opposition,” said Helen Smith, Impala’s executive chair.

The Commission approved Sony and Mubadala’s acquisition of EMI’s music publishing business in 2012 in return for hefty concessions, including the sale of the worldwide publishing rights to four catalogues and the musical works of 12 composers.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, editing by Louise Heavens