BMG Rights Management has raised its hand as a potential buyer for Parlophone Records, a boutique record label in Britain whose artists include Coldplay, Chemical Brothers and Sigur Ros, according to a music executive familiar with the discussions.
BMG is the latest to express a desire to purchase any assets that Universal Music Group divests to secure the approval of European antitrust regulators for its proposed $1.9-billion acquisition of EMI. That deal would reduce the number of major record labels in the world to three from four.
Universal declined to comment, citing confidentiality of the negotiations. A message to BMG was not immediately returned.
EMI operates three main labels in Britain -- Parlophone, Virgin Records and EMI Records. Universal had initially wanted to keep Parlophone and divest the two other labels. Interested buyers included billionaire Richard Branson, who founded Virgin Records in 1972 and sold it to EMI 20 years later.
Selling Parlophone would allow Universal to keep Virgin and EMI while satisfying the European Commission's insistence that Universal control no more than 40% of any country's market share for recorded music.
The deal would not include Parlophone's rights to sell Beatles albums in Britain, which Universal wants to keep, according to a record label executive who was not authorized to speak publicly on the transaction.
Sensing a buying opportunity, more than 20 companies have stepped up to declare their interest in any assets Universal decides to sell. BMG, a joint venture between Bertelsmann and investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., last year unsuccessfully bid for EMI's music publishing business, which was ultimately sold to Sony Corp. for $2.1 billion. Sony is also among the companies that have lined up to potentially bid on Universal's divestitures, the executive said.
Some rival independent labels and consumer advocates have expressed concern that Universal, already the world's largest record company, would become too powerful if it merges with EMI.
Universal's chief executive, Lucian Grainge, has publicly stated that his company is "open-minded" about selling off assets in Europe to make regulators happy.
The European Commission has set a Sept. 6 deadline for issuing its ruling on the merger.
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