Levelling the playing field for independent music companies and their artists across Europe
IMPALA’s aim is to keep the market as open and as competitive as possible for the independent sector. This means keeping an eye on what’s happening with consolidation. For example, UMG has sold 20% of its shares to Chinese tech giant Tencent. In addition, we learned that Tencent Music Entertainment was also taking a stake in UMG’s China operations and we understand negotiations continue with both Tencent and other potential purchasers. UMG also announced its plan to make an IPO within the next three years.
IMPALA confirmed its position on the deal with Tencent (here and here), and warned of its impact on the music sector. We also raised our concerns with the relevant competition authorities in China and Europe, including the EU and national regulators, as well as with other jurisdictions around the world. We will continue to monitor the situation and liaise with our members and regulators.
Warner Music Group went on the stock market after a delay due to the covid crisis, attracting a lot of interest from many organisations inside and outside of the music sector. Among the confirmed buyers? Tencent, with a $200m+ stake.
Before floating on the stock market, Warner was rumoured to be considering selling to Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which bought a 5.7% stake in Live Nation this year. The deal was not confirmed but shows one thing: music is the new oil!
See also below for more info on IMPALA’s track record on competition cases.
IMPALA’s track record on competition cases
IMPALA has an impressive record on competition cases in the music sector. The first EMI/Warner merger was withdrawn in 2001 following objections from the EU after IMPALA intervened, in its first year of existence. It also won a landmark judgment in 2006 in the Sony/BMG case, and when Sony acquired 30% of EMI publishing in 2012, it was at the cost of significant divestments. The biggest set of remedies proportionately ever in a merger case was secured later that year, when UMG was forced to sell two thirds of EMI records and had to accept ten years of scrutiny over the terms of its digital deals. When WMG bought Parlophone in 2013, IMPALA secured a hefty divestments package for its members. IMPALA also represented the independents in the various Sony/EMI merger cases from 2012 to 2018, where the EU ultimately approved the acquisition based on remedies Sony agreed in 2012.
On top of mergers, IMPALA has also been involved in other anti-trust cases involving the music sector, such as the abuse complaint against YouTube in 2014 and the call for regulating unfair business practices by large online players. IMPALA also submitted observations on Apple’s bid to acquire Shazam.