Exclusive: Access, Sony, Universal weigh EMI bids
By Nadia Damouni and Soyoung Kim
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Len Blavatnik's Access Industries, Sony Music Entertainment and Vivendi SA's <VIV.PA> Universal Music Group are among the music companies and private equity firms interested in buying EMI Group Ltd <LNDONE.UL>, people familiar with the situation said.
Potential bidders for parts or all of the 114-year-old music 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 <KKR.N> -- five people said on Thursday.
EMI, which represents such artists as Katy Perry, Beastie Boys, The Beatles and Keith Urban, is seen as one of the last remaining attractive assets in the music industry after its closest rival Warner Music was bought by Access Industries in May for $3.3 billion.
Analysts estimate that EMI could be sold for $2.5 billion to $4 billion.
U.S. bank Citigroup <C.N> took control of EMI in February this year, after British financier Guy Hands' Terra Firma defaulted on a loan and lost a long battle to keep hold of the debt-ridden music company.
EMI said in June that it was exploring strategic alternatives, including a possible sale, recapitalization or the initial public offering of the company.
Music insiders have long expected EMI to be broken up, with its record labels like Capitol and Virgin sold off separately from its songs catalog unit, EMI Music Publishing.
Citigroup is keeping its options open as to EMI. The auction could include separate offers for EMI's music publishing and music recording businesses, or an offer for the entire company, three of the sources said.
The interested parties have signed confidentiality agreements to get access to EMI's financial information so that they can decide whether to put in bids for the company, which are expected in August, the sources said.
Potential buyers including Access, MacAndrews & Forbes, Sony and Platinum Equity have talked to investment banks about financing an EMI buyout, these people said.
Banks including Goldman Sachs <GS.N>, Credit Suisse <CSGN.VX> and UBS AG <UBS.N> have expressed willingness to finance a potential deal, two of the sources said. All the banks declined to comment for this story.
Representatives for Access, Sony, MacAndrews & Forbes declined to comment. Platinum Equity and BMG were not immediately available for comment.
Terra Firma bought EMI in 2007 at the height of the leveraged buyout boom in a 4 billion pound ($6.5 billion) leveraged buyout deal. Citigroup underwrote all the debt.
The deal was struck at an inopportune time -- and weeks before the credit crunch. Hands later took Citi to court, claiming he had been duped into bidding so much for EMI in the first place.
Prior to the acquisition by Access, Warner Music had considered bidding for EMI, and was long seen as the most logical buyer for its rival.
Analysts have said that Sony or Vivendi's Universal Music Group would run into anti-trust concerns if they try to acquire the entire company. Sony would look at acquiring the publishing side of EMI while Universal would eye the recording division, one of the sources said.
(Reporting by Nadia Damouni and Soyoung Kim; Editing by Bernard Orr)